Home » Right to Information : An Introduction

Right to Information

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.

What does Right to Information include?

"Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to it's functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed"
- Right to Information Act 2005
  • Right to inspect works, documents, records.
  • Right to take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
  • Right to take certified samples of material.
  • Right to obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.

Key Concepts

  • Transparency & Accountability in the working of every public authority
  • The right of any citizen of India to request access to information and the corresponding duty of Govt. to meet the request, except the exempted information
  • The duty of Govt. to pro-actively make available key information to all
  • A responsibility on all sections: citizenry, NGOs, Media Obligations
  • [Section 4(1)] Every public authority shall - (a) maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated

Coverage

  • Came into effect from October 12, 2005
  • Covers Central, state and local governments, and
  • - all bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed;
  • - non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government [Section 2(h)]
  • Covers executive, judiciary and legislature [Section 2(e)]
  • Includes information relating to private body which can be accessed by under any other law for the time being in force [Section 2(f)]

Access

  • - Universal Access – especially to the Poor
  • - Fee at a reasonable level – though quantum not specified. No fee for BPL.
  • - Assistant Public Information Officers at sub-district levels to facilitate filing of applications/appeals
  • - No need to specify reason for seeking information or other personal details
  • - Provision to reduce oral requests into writing
  • - Provision to provide all required assistance, including to disabled persons.
  • - Information to be provided in local languages
  • - Provision for damages
  • - Open only to citizens of India.

The Procedure

  • Application to be submitted in writing or electronically, with prescribed fee, to Public Information Officer (PIO).
  • Envisages PIO in each department/agency to receive requests and provide information. Assistant PIO at sub-district levels to receive applications/appeals/ complaints. Forward to appropriate PIO. These will be existing officers.
  • Information to be provided within 30 days. 48 hours where life or liberty is involved. 35 days where request is given to Asst. PIO, 40 days where third party is involved and 45 days for human rights violation information from listed security/ intelligence agencies.
  • Time taken for calculation and intimation of fees excluded from the time frame.
  • No action on application for 30 days is a deemed refusal.
  • No fee for delayed response

What is not open to disclosure?

The following is exempt from disclosure [Section 8]

  • - 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 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;
  • - Notwithstanding any of the exemptions listed above, a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
  • - Infringes copyright, except of the state.
  • - Where practicable, part of record can be released.
  • - Intelligence and security agencies exempt [Section 24] – except cases of corruption and human rights violation
  • - Third party information to be released after giving notice to third party
  • - Most exempt information to be released after 20 years (with some exceptions).
  • - Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
  • - Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions (a to i), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interests in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

Responsibilities of Public Authorities

  • - Appointing PIOs/Asst. PIOs within 100 days of enactment [Section 5(1)]
  • - Maintaining, cataloguing, indexing, computerising and networking records [Section 4(1)(a)].
  • - Publishing within 120 days of enactment a whole set of information and updating it every year [Section 4(1)(b)]
  • - Publishing all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public [Section 4(1)(c)]
  • - Providing reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons [Section 4(1)(d)]
  • - Providing information suo moto [Section 4(2)]
  • - Providing information to Information Commission [Section 25(2)]
  • - Raising awareness, educating and training [Section 26(1)]
  • - Compiling in 18 months and updating regularly local language guide to information [Sections 26(2) & (3)]

Public Awareness and Educational Programmes [Section 26]

  • - Develop and organize educational programmes to advance the understanding of the public, particularly the disadvantaged, to exercise right to information.
  • - Government to:
  • + Encourage public authorities to participate in programmes; promote timely/effective dissemination of accurate info on activities.
  • + Train CPIOs and produce relevant training materials – user guide and related matter.