Right to Information Act in India

The Indian Constitution is regarded as the supreme law of the Nation that declares India as a sovereign, secular and democratic republic country. It guarantees all its citizens, justice, equality and liberty thereby making a successful attempt to promote fraternity among them. It lays down the scaffold for defining primary political principles, sets up the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens. The concept behind declaring India as a democratic republic was to free India from monarchy and have a fair electorate. Democracy embraces in itself the expressions equality and freedom. Democracy plays a quintessential role in assuring smooth operations on the part of the government. It necessitates a well-versed electorate and lucidity of information which are fundamental to its functioning and also to enclose corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed, disclosure of information in real practice is prone to divergence with other public interests as well as proficient maneuver of the Governments, best possible utilization of inadequate economic resources and safeguarding the discretion of sensitive information. It is essential to synchronize these conflicting interests while safeguarding the dominance of the democratic principle. Hence, it is opportune to endow with furnishing certain information to citizens who are yearning to have it.

Right to information act

Now, here arises the most important questions do the citizens of India really have the rights guaranteed by the Constitution? Is India in its true sense a democratic republic? Are the citizens of India treated equally? Do we really have the freedom that the citizens of democratic nations have? Do we have the right to know about the functioning of the government and its instrumentalities? There are several such questions that keep revolving in our minds.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is an answer to these questions. Right to Information is incorporated within the fundamental right “Freedom of Speech and Expression” under Articles 19(1) and 19(2). The Act pertains to all States and Union Territories of India excluding the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has its own act called Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009.It is valid to all constitutional authorities, as well as the executive, legislature and judiciary and every institution or body recognized or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. Furthermore, The Act defines that bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or announcement of appropriate government together with bodies “owned, controlled or significantly financed” by government, or non-Government organizations “significantly financed, directly or indirectly by funds” granted by the government are also covered in it. However, private bodies do not come unswervingly in the ambit of the Act. Nevertheless, information that can be accessed under any other law in force by a public authority can also be demanded. In a landmark judgment of 30-Nov-2006 ‘Sarbajit Roy vs. DERC’ the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatized public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act- their privatization not withstanding. The Act empowers the citizens to inquire any questions from the Government or seek any information, obtain copies of any governmental documents, examine any governmental documents as well as acquire samples of materials of any Governmental work.

The Right to information Act, 2005 provides a distinct procedure to seek the information on the governance. One can apply in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area to the PIO, the particulars of the information required ought to be specified, providing the motive behind seeking information are not mandatory, fees as may be prescribed (if not belonging to the below poverty line category) should be paid. Fees required for the application is prescribed in the act. Application fees prescribed must be reasonable. If extra fees are necessary, then it must be intimated in writing with calculation details on how the amount is derived, applicant can seek review of the decision on fees charged by the PIO by applying to the apposite Appellate Authority, no fees will be charged from people living below the poverty line, Applicant is given information free of cost only if the PIO fails to comply with the prescribed time limit.

There is a distinctive procedure prescribed in the Act for submitting the application. One can submit the application personally it is important to ensure that one gets the copy of the application and proof of payment duly stamped, signed and dated, either by the PIO or by the inward department. Submission of the application can also be made by Registered Post AD. The AD card will work as evidence of submission, after it is returned to you by the postal department. In case the AD card does not come back with a proper stamp, signature and date of receipt then one should follow up with the dispatching post office to get the AD card done. Submission can also be made via Speed Post. There is a specified time limit provided in the Act. For PIO to reply to application, the time limit is 30 days from date of receipt of application. For PIO to transfer to another PA under Sec 6(3), the time limit prescribed is 5 days from date of receipt of application. For PIO to issue notice to 3rd Party, the time limit provided is 5 days from date of receipt of application. For 3rd Party to make a representation to PIO, the limit is 10 days from date of notice from PIO. For PIO to reply to application if 3rdParty involved, the time limit is 40 days from date of receipt of application. For applicant to make First Appea, 30 days is the time limit provided from date of receipt of PIO’s reply or from date when reply was to be received. For First Appellate Authority to pass an order it is 30 days from receipt of First Appeal or maximum 45 days only if the grounds for impediment are given in writing. Applicant to make Second Appeal before CIC/SIC it should be within 90 days from receipt of First Appeal orders or from the date when orders were to be received. There is no time limit given for CIC/SIC to decide Second Appeal.

Incase there is no response from the PIO or refuses to accept an application; delays release of information without reasonable cause; knowingly giving deficient, erroneous, disingenuous information; destroying information that has been requested; obstructing furnishing of requested information in any way then every PIO will be responsible for fine of Rs. 250 per day, up to a maximum of Rs. 25,000/-.

Right to Information Act, 2005 is a remarkable initiative in the part of the Government to empower the citizens to seek information about the governance. It is ought to be utilized by the citizens and used as an instrument to keep vigilance on the functioning of the Government and its instrumentalities.

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