Right to Information Act, 2005

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Introduction to the Right To Information Act

“An Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for 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.” The primary objective of introducing this Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency, and accountability in the working of the Government and help the citizens to be aware of the activities of the Government, highlighting the real sense of democracy. The Right to Information Act was enacted in 2005 and is applicable to the whole of India. As per Section 2(j) of the Act, the ‘right to information’ means the “right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to documents, inspection of work, records, taking certified samples of materials, and obtaining information in form of floppies, video cassettes, tapes, or any other electronic device.” Section 3 of the Act ensures that all citizens have the right to information, “Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information.” 

Some important sections of the Right to Information Act, 2005

  • Obligations of public authorities

Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 provides information about certain obligations of public authorities. It has been determined that public authorities should maintain records appropriately in a way that facilitates the right to information. It also ensures that all the records that could be computerized are computerized, within a reasonable time and availability of resources, and connected through a network all over the country providing easy accessibility. Also, this Section illustrates that every public authority should publish certain particulars within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act. Apart from this, it also provides suo motu disclosure of information to the public at regular intervals via different means of communication. The information should be distributed after taking certain elements including cost-effectiveness, efficient method of communication in a particular area, and their local language.

  • Designation of Public Information Officers

Act provides for the recruitment of the Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) or the State Public Information Officers (SPIOs) within one hundred days of enactment of this Act who shall deal with the person seeking information. Under Section 5 of this Act, it has been determined that a Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer is appointed at each sub-divisional or sub-district level to receive applications from the public. It also highlights the responsibilities of the Public Information officer such as they provide assistance to the information seekers. 

  • Request for obtaining information

The Act also provides appropriate information regarding the process to obtain the information where the very first step is to make a request for obtaining information to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, under Section 6 of the Act. It is not required for an individual who wants to access the information to give a reason for requesting information or any other personal details. Moreover, Section 6(3) of this Act states that “the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer.”

  • Disposal of request

The CPIO or SPIO should provide the information on the payment of a fee or reject the request for information within thirty days of the receipt of the request. It should also determine whether the information asked by the public is exempted from disclosure or not and inform the same to the public seeking that particular information. Under Section 7 of the Act, it has been demonstrated that if a request for information is denied then the Public Information Officer notifies the individual who made the request for information regarding the reason for refusal, the time limit for filing an appeal against refusal, and details of the agency to whom the appeal might be filed. 

  • Grounds for rejection to access in certain cases

Under Section 9 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, certain grounds are mentioned on the basis of which a request to obtain information could be rejected by the CPIO/SPIO. A request is rejected if a request for information would “involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the State”.

  • Severability

In case, the requested information is rejected on the ground that it is exempt from disclosure then the access is provided to the part of information that does not contain any information which exempts from disclosure. Section 10(2) of the Act illustrates that when access is granted to such information then CPIO/SPIO should inform the applicant that “only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided”. Moreover, the name and designation of the person who gave such a decision are also given to the information seeker.  

  • Third-Party information

In case a requested information relates to or is supplied by a third party and is treated as confidential by them then the CPIO/SPIO provides a written notice of the request to the third party. The third party should reply to the notice within ten days from the date of receipt of the notice whether they allow sharing of the information or not. 

Exemptions from disclosure under RTI Act

RTI Act empowers every citizen to question the abuse of power and secrecy practiced in governance by providing any information requested by them. The access to information under public authority to the general public results in promoting a true sense of democracy within the country. Despite this, due to security reasons, certain information cannot be disclosed to the public; therefore, Section 8 of the Act illustrates an ‘exemption from disclosure of information’. Information, disclosure of which may prejudicially affect the integrity and sovereignty of India, which is forbidden to be published publicly by any court of law, disclosure of which may cause a breach of privilege of the State Legislature or Parliament, that may endanger the life or physical safety of an individual, cabinet papers such as records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries, and other officers, that might affect the process of apprehending, investigating or prosecuting offenders, and various others. 

A strong law or a legal provision may provide the required legal framework but a vigilant citizen is a key to unlocking its power so along with granting powers to citizens an effort must be made to encourage them to utilize their powers. 

Related Case Laws

1. Is it necessary for an information seeker to give any reason for requesting information?
2. What are the two modes of filing an RTI?