October 4, 2022

Decoding the RTI Act 2005

OBJECT AND PURPOSE

This act was enacted 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.

Because democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.

THEREFORE, it is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it.

IMPORTANT DEFINTIONS

  • “Appropriate Government” means an authority which is established, constituted, owner, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the Central Government, State government or Union territory administration.
  • “Competent Authority” means the speaker in the case of the House of the people or the Legislative Assembly or chairman of council of states or Union territories. And the chief Justices of Supreme Court and High Courts, also, the President or the Governor, as the case may be, in the case of other authorities established or constituted by or under the Constitution.
  • “Information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;
  • public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under constitution, parliament, state legislature or notification issued or order made by the appropriate government and includes any-
  • body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
  • non-Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;
  • Record” includes—
    • any document, manuscript and file; (document)
    • any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document; (micro film type document)
    •  any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and (Image)
    • any other material produced by a computer or any other device; (computerised document)
  • Right to Information” means accessible under this act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right of-
  • inspection of work, documents, records; (inspection)
  • taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
  • taking certified samples of material; (taking notes and extracts)
  • obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; (electronic mode)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

SECTION 3 of the act specifically provides that EVERY CITIZEN of the country has the “RIGHT TO INFORMATION”.

OBLIGATIONS OF AUTHORITIES

  • Every public authority shall facilitate right to information and for this purpose-
  • maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and Computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems;
  • Publish the followings-
  • particulars of its organisation, functions and duties;
  • the powers and duties of its officers and employees;
  • the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability;
  • the normsset by it for the discharge of its functions;
  • the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions;
  • a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control;
  • the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representationby, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof;
  • a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public;
  • a directory of its officers and employees;
  • the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations;
  • the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made;
  • the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
  • particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it;
  • details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form;
  • the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use;
  • the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers;
  • such other information as may be prescribed; and thereafter update these publications every year;
  •  all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;
  • Every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public. “disseminated” means making known or communicated the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet or any other means, including inspection of offices of any public authority.
    • All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible.

DESIGNATION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICERS

  • Every public authority shall designate its officers as Central Public Information Officers or State Public Information Officers, in all administrative units or offices to provide information.
  • Every public authority shall also designate an officer, at each sub-divisional level or other sub-district level as a Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer, to receive the applications for information or appeals under this Act for forwarding the same forthwith to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission.
  • Where an application for information or appeal is given to a Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer, a period of five days shall be added in computing the period for response with the fix period specified in this act.
  • Every Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking such information.
  • The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may seek the assistance of any other officer as he or she considers it necessary for the proper discharge of his or her duties. And any officer, whose assistance has been sought under shall render all assistance to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer.

 

PROCESS TO GET INFORMATION UNDER RTI ACT

  • A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying fee, to—
  •  the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, of the concerned public authority;
  • the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer,

specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her. And if such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.

  • An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
  • Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, —
  •  which is held by another public authority; or
  • the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority,

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. Such transfer shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

  • The Central or State Public Information Officer, on receipt of a request shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request,
  • either provide the information on payment of such fee or
  • reject the request for any of the reasons specified under this act.

But information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.

  • If the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the caase may be fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified under this act, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, shall be deemed to have refused the request.
  • Where such has been rejected, the Central or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall communicate to the person making the request-
  • the reasons for such rejection;
  • the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
  • the particulars of the appellate authority.

An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.

  • Where access to the record or a part thereof is required to be provided under this Act and the person to whom access is to be provided is sensorily disabled, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall provide assistance to enable access to the information, including providing such assistance as may be appropriate for the inspection.

FEE TO GET INFORMATION

  • Where a decision is taken to provide the information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, shall send an intimation to the person making the request, giving—
  •  the details of further fees representing the cost of providing the information as determined by him, together with the calculations made to arrive at the amount, requesting him to deposit that fees,

and the period intervening between the despatch of the said intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the purpose of calculating the period of thirty days

  • information of his/her right with respect to review the decision as to the amount of fees charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the appellate authority, time limit, process and any other forms.
  • Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall, pay such fee as may be prescribed.
  • The fee under this act to obtain information shall be reasonable and no fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line.
  • If public authority fails to comply with the time-limits specified in this act, the person making request for the information shall be provides the information free of charge.

WHEN INFORMATION IS DENIED (EXEMPTIONS)

  • There shall be no obligation on the public authority under this act, to give any citizen, —
  •  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; (Sovereignty and integrity and foreign relations)
  • 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; (contempt of court)
  • information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; (breach of privilege)
  • 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; (third party interest)

Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may reject a request for information where such a request for providing access would involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the State.

  • 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; (fiduciary relationship)
  • information received in confidence from foreign Government; (confident information)
  • 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; (law enforcement)
  • information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; (impediment of proceeding)
  • cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers. (cabinet papers)

However, the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over.

  •  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 unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. (personal information)

however, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

  • It should be noted that public authority may allow access to information, which is exempted as above or under Official Secret Act, 1923, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
  • Information under (a), (c) and (i), relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made, shall be provided to any person making a request.
  • Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure, then, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.

THIRD PARTY INFORMATION UNDER THE ACT

“Third Party” means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a public authority.

Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, the third party will have time of ten days from the date of receipt of notice and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information.

Central public information officer of state public information officer, as the case may be, shall within forty days after receipt of request for information under the act and if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation, make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.

Third party may prefer an appeal against the decision of Central or state public information commissioner, as the case may be, within thirty days from the date of the order.

Except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.

STATE INFORMTATION COMMISSION

CONSTITUTION

State Government shall constitute Information commission for its state. The state information commissioner shall consist of-

  •  the State Chief Information Commissioner, and
  • such number of State Information Commissioners, not exceeding ten, as may be deemed necessary.

These information commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—

  •  the Chief Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
  • the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly; and
  • a Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Chief Minister

The State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.

They will not be Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union territory, as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

The State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment. And, no State Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office as such after he has attained the age of sixty-five years.

However, State Information Commissioner shall, on vacating his office, be eligible for appointment as the State Chief Information Commissioner. And, where the State Information Commissioner is appointed as the State Chief Information Commissioner, his term of office shall not be more than five years in aggregate as the State Information Commissioner and the State Chief Information Commissioner.

The State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner may, at any time, by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor, resign from his office.

The salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of—

  • the State Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of an Election Commissioner;
    • the State Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government.

The State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner shall be removed from his office only by order of the Governor on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the Governor, has on inquiry, reported that the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed.

The Governor may also by order remove from office the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner if a State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner, as the case may be, —

  •  is adjudged an insolvent; or
  • has been convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the Governor, involves moral turpitude; or
  • engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
  • is, in the opinion of the Governor, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
  • has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner.

POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONS, APPEAL AND PENALTIES

DUTIES

It shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person, —

  • who has been unable to submit a request to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, either by reason that no such officer has been appointed under this Act, or because the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has refused to accept his or her application for information or appeal under this Act for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be;
  • who has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;
  • who has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limit specified under this Act;
  • who has been required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;
  • who believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act; and
  • in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.

Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof.

The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall, while inquiring into any matter under this section, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

APPEAL

Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in the act or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority.

 A second appeal against the decision shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission.

An appeal shall be disposed of within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty-five days from the date of filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing.

The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall be binding.

PENALTIES

Central or State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal can impose penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received of information is furnished, if public authority-

  • without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified or
  • malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or
  • obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information.

However, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees.

If such allegations as stated above are against Central or state information commissioner, disciplinary action against the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, shall be recommended.

BAR OF JURISDICTION

No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this Act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this Act.

ACT NOT TO APPLY TO CERTAIN ORGANISATIONS

This Act does not apply to following organisations-

  1. Intelligence Bureau.
    1. Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat.
    1. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
    1. Central Economic Intelligence Bureau.
    1.  Directorate of Enforcement.
    1. Narcotics Control Bureau.
    1. Aviation Research Centre.
    1. Special Prontier Force.
    1. Border Security Force.
    1. Central Reserve Police Force.
    1. Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
    1. Central Industrial Security Force.
    1. National Security Guards.
    1. Assam Rifles.
    1. Special Service Bureau
    1. Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar.
    1. The Crime Branch-C.I.D.-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
    1. Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police.

FEATURES OF THE ACT

  • This act is the example of modern legislation which provide the modern right to information and focus on citizen by providing assistance in every regard.

This article is written by Arshi hayat Gnagohi. She is a lawyer, blogger at ababeelfolks and writes on laws, culture, books, cinema, food and literature.