This article was written by Kriti Bhatia student of University Institute of Legal Studies, Punjab University.
Ever thought what life would have been in Free India without any law? Yes it would have been the same way for all as it is for some people living in remote areas and totally ignorant of the laws. Framing laws to provide rights to the citizens does not complete the meaning of Freedom. It’s the applicability of law and accountability of the state that gives the freedom its true meaning. Hence to establish freedom, The Right to Information Act 2005 was passed by the Parliament.
The Right to information Act is an act of the Parliament of India “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens.” It has replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002 which was drafted by H. D. Shourie because the act contained too many exemptions and no upper limit on the charges that could be levied.
This law was passed by the Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. The first application was given to a Pune police station by Shahid Raza Burney. Information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes. Right to Information is applicable to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The State level RTIs were first successfully enacted by the state governments of TamilNadu (1997), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002), Assam(2002), Madhya Pradesh (2003), Jammu and Kashmir (2004), Haryana (2005) and Andhra Pradesh(2005).
Under the provisions of this Act any citizen of India can ask any Public authority i.e. “any Government body or instrumentality of state, including bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government, or non-Government organizations, substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government” for the information and these bodies have to provide the information expeditiously or within a period of 30 days. The private bodies do not come in the ambit of RTI however in the case Sarbjit roy vs Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatized public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act- their privatization not withstanding. The political bodies are also a form of government bodies hence are answerable to people under this Act.
PROCEDURE OF FILING AN RTI:
- The process of filing an RTI is reactive. The information is disclosed by the authorities on an application made by the person seeking information from a Public Information Officer.
- Any person may submit a written request to the PIO for information. It is the PIO’s obligation to provide information to citizens of India who request information under the Act.
- If the request pertains to another public authority (in whole or part), it is the PIO’s responsibility to transfer/forward the concerned portions of the request to a PIO of the other authority within 5 working days.
- In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers(APIOs) to receive RTI requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIOs of their public authority.
- The applicant is required to disclose his name and contact particulars but not any other reasons or justification for seeking information.
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information.
- The Act specifies time limit for replying to the request.
- If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt.
- If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt.
- If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority (better concerned with the information requested), the time allowed to reply is 30 days but computed from the day after it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.
- Information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations by scheduled Security agencies (those listed in the Second Schedule to the Act) is to be provided within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission.
- However, if life or liberty of any person is involved, the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.
- A citizen who desires to seek some information from a public authority is required to send (along with the application) a demand draft or a bankers cheque or an Indian Postal Order of Rs.10/- (Rupees ten) payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority as fee prescribed for seeking information.
- The applicant may also be required to pay further fee towards the cost of providing the information, details of which shall be intimated to the applicant by the PIO as prescribed by the RTI ACT.
- Since the information is to be paid for, the reply of the PIO is necessarily limited to either denying the request (in whole or part) and/or providing a computation of “further fees”.
- The time between the reply by the PIO and the time taken to deposit the further fees for information is excluded from the time allowed.
- If information is not provided within this period, it is treated as deemed refusal. Refusal with or without reasons may be ground for appeal or complaint. Further, information not provided in the time prescribed is to be provided free of charge.
Following are the bodies which are excluded from the RTI:
- IB (Intelligence Bureau)
- Directorate General of Income tax (Investigation),
- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),
- Directorate of Revenue Intelligence,
- Central Economic Intelligence Bureau,
- Directorate of Enforcement,
- Narcotics Control Bureau,
- Aviation Research Centre,
- Special Frontier Force,
- Assam Rifles,
- Special Service Bureau,
- Special Branch (CID),
- Andaman and Nicobar,
- The Crime Branch-CID-CB,
- Dadra and Nagar Haveli
- Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police.
Hence excluding the above bodies RTI is available for all the other governmental bodies and has become one of the most important pieces of legislation which makes the bureaucracy and government accountable.
Concludingly, Right to Information helps citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.