Every citizen of this country has the right to information where they are allowed to enquire about any public transaction or activity from the government. It is an important topic that every Indian should know about. In this law note, we will study the right to information granted to the citizens under the RTI Act, 2005.
- Introduction to RTI Act, 2005
- Meaning of Right to Information
- Right to Information as a Fundamental Right
- Salient Features of RTI Act, 2005
- Objectives of the RTI Act, 2005
- Public Authority under RTI Act, 2005
- Obligations of Public Authorities
- Records under RTI Act, 2005
- Evidentiary value of RTI Documents
- What is the procedure for filing an RTI?
Introduction to RTI Act, 2005
Right to information is not merely a statutory right but also a fundamental right. Even in the case of the State of Rajasthan vs Raj Narain, it was held that public agents must be held responsible for their conduct, and they can keep secrets only in few exceptional cases.
People of India have a right to know about every public act and everything that the government does for the general public.
Meaning of Right to Information
Right to information includes the right to access information by any public entity, as defined by the Right to Information Act of 2005.
- Taking notes, extracts, or certified copies of documents or records, certified samples of material.
- Obtaining information on diskettes, floppy, tapes, video cassettes, or any other electronic medium, as well as printouts when the information is stored in a computer or other device. [Section 2(j)]
- Third Party refers to anyone other than the citizen requesting information, which could include a government agency. [Section 2(n)]
Right to Information as a Fundamental Right
Right to information is merely a statutory right created by the RTI Act, 2005, whereas it is essentially a Fundamental Right guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Throughout the world, RTI is seen as a key to strengthen the democracy of a country and to ensure the development of its citizens. Even in India, the government enacted the Right to Information Act in 2005, allowing transparency, autonomy, and access to information to Indian citizens.
Salient Features of RTI Act, 2005
The main features of the Right to Information Act, 2005 are:
1. The RTI Act extends to the whole of India.
2. All citizens shall have the right to information under this Act.
3. It is implemented after 120 days of its enactment.
4. It shall apply to public authorities.
5. The Public Information Officer or Assistant Public Information Officer will be accountable for responding to requests for information and assisting people looking for information.
6. The fee payable will depend upon the nature of the information.
7. Specific categories of information have been exempted from disclosure under section 8 and section 9 of the RTI Act.
8. Intelligence and security agencies specified in Schedule II of the RTI Act have been exempted from the ambit of the Act, subject to certain conditions. Example: Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Objectives of the RTI Act, 2005
The main objectives of the Right to Information Act, 2005 are:
1. As stated above, RTI Act confers on all citizens a right to information.
2. The Act establishes the RTI practise regime (Government system) for citizens to gain access to information held by government agencies. This is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
Public Authority under RTI Act, 2005
Public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005 means any authority, body, or institution of self-government established or constituted by the Constitution, any other law made by the parliament or State Legislature, or even by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government. [Section 2(h)]
Obligations of Public Authorities
Every Public Authority is instructed with a duty to maintain records and publish manuals, rules, instructions, regulations etc., in its possession as prescribed under the RTI Act, 2005. [Section 4(1)(a)]
As per section 4(1)(b), every public authority has to publish particular of his organisation such as functions and duties, powers of officers, decision-making procedure, rules and regulations for employees, etc., within 120 days of enactment.
Records under RTI Act, 2005
Under section 2(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the following things are considered as records:
- Any document, manuscript, and files.
- Any microfilm, microphone, and facsimile (fax) copy of a document.
- Any image or images concentrated in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not).
- Any other information created by a computer or any other mechanism.
As a result, information refers to any type of material, such as records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, and instructions. [Section 2(f)]
Evidentiary value of RTI Documents
As per section 63 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, a certified copy of documents received under the RTI Act is considered secondary evidence. Any information collected under the RTI Act is part of documents or records kept by the Public Authority, known as Gazette Officers.
Case Law: Ashish Kumar Saxena vs State of Uttar Pradesh
It is pretty evident through the points mentioned above that the right to information is a fundamental right granted to every Indian citizen. The public authorities are duty-bound to reveal the records as and when asked under the RTI. However, a few agencies are exempted from this Act. The purpose of the RTI Act is to promote greater transparency at all levels. With the help of this Act, the working of government is scrutinised, and an eye to eye checkup is done. Accountability promotes transparency, and transparency justifies the democracy.
What is the procedure for filing an RTI?
The Right to Information Act was passed in 2005 to increase transparency and give Indian citizens direct access to information regarding government policies, schemes, and all administrative actions. RTI was introduced to demand accountability of government authorities and reduce corruption. Application for filing of RTI can be filed by an Indian citizen only.
Here is the step by step procedure for filing RTI online:
1. Click on https://rtionline.gov.in/ to go on the RTI portal. Now you have two options:
a. One is to file RTI by registering yourself (which can be done if you are filing RTI frequently).
b. Or secondly, you can file RTI without registration.
2. Now click on the “submit request” option provided on the portal if you want to file without registration.
3. A list of guidelines will be provided on this page, which you can read carefully and select the ‘I have read and understood the above guidelines’ option.
4. After which, the RTI form will be displayed. Now you have to select the department/ministry from the dropdown box, where you want to file your RTI.
5. Now you can fill in all the necessary details and then click on submit.
6. A payment portal will be displayed wherein you have to pay a fee of Rs. 10 (rupees ten only) via internet banking, ATM card, debit or credit card, etc.
7. After completing payment, the application will be displayed for review, wherein after clicking on the ‘submit’ option, the application will get submitted.
8. You will receive a Unique Registration Number on your mobile number, which you can use to view the status of your application. You will also get a confirmation email informing you about the completion of the procedure for submission of your application.
9. Then your application will be forwarded to the concerned Nodal Officer, who will then forward this to Central Public Information Officer (CPIO).
RTI filed must be responded to within 30 days, and in case of life and death, 48 hours is the time limit for the reply.
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