Right to Information Act, 2005
Right to Information Act, 2005 provides for setting up of practical regime of right to information for The Indian citizens. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This is covered under a specific State law. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
It is applicable to all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary, any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. It is defined in the Act that bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of appropriate government including bodies "owned, controlled or substantially financed" by government, or non-Government organizations "substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds" provided by the government are also covered in it.
The Elements of the Act.
The Act explicitly overrides the Official Secrets Act and other laws in force on 15-June-2005 to the extent of any inconsistency. Private bodies are not directly within the ambit of the Act. However, information that can be accessed under any other law in force by a public authority can also be requested for. In a landmark decision of 30-Nov-2006 ('Sarbajit Roy versus DERC') the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatised public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act- their privatisation notwithstanding. Under the Act, all authorities covered must appoint a Public Information Officer (PIO). Any person may submit a request to the PIO for information in writing. It is an obligation of the PIO 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 within 5 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 citizen making the request is not obliged to disclose any detail except his name and contact particulars.
Chief information commissioner and the authority.
Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) is the head of all the information officers. The State Information Commission will be selected by the State Government through a Gazette notification. It will have one State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and not more than 10 State Information Commissioners (SIC) to be appointed by the Governor.
At the end of year CIC is required to present a report which contains: (a) the number of requests made to each public authority; (b) the number of decisions where applicants were not given permission to access to the documents which they request, the provisions of the Act under which these decisions were made and the number of times such provisions were filed; (c)details of disciplinary action taken against any officer in respect of the administration of the Act; (d) the amount of charges collected by each public authority under the Act PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and where the request cannot be made in writing, to render reasonable assistance to the person to reduce the same in writing.
Important section in the Right of Information Act 2005.
The following is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 of the Act:
- Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
- Information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
- Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
- Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- Information received in confidence from foreign Government;
- Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
- Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
- Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
- Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual (but it is also provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied by this exemption);
Full text of the Right to Information Act, 2005 has been provided at http://righttoinformation.gov.in/webactrti.htm.
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