Top
Know the Law

Right To Information Act, 2005: All You Need To Know

Lovina B Thakkar
7 July 2020 4:41 AM GMT
Right To Information Act, 2005: All You Need To Know
Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

Right to Information Act 2005 is an act of the Parliament of India which sets all the rules and procedures regarding citizen's right to information from the government, inspect any government documents, seek certified photocopies thereof.

  • This Act replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002 to mandate timely response to citizen requests for government information.
  • RTI is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19(1) specifies that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression.
  • Any person who is the citizen of India or Non-Residents of India (NRI) can file Right to Information.
  • It extends to whole of India including the State of Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370.
  • RTI can filed only against the public authority or government authority. As defined under section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 A public authority means an organization which is established, constituted, owned, controlled, financed by fund provided directly by the government be it Central Government, State Government or Union Territory administration.
  • In the case of Prime Minsiter National Relief Fund v. Aseem Takyar Delhi High Court held that Prime Minsiter National Relief Fund was not a public authority under the act.
  • Information as defined under section 2(f) of the act means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, email, circulars, orders, contracts, reports, samples etc.
  • As defined under section 2(j) of the act "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—

(i) inspection of work, documents, records;

(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;

(iii) taking certified samples of material;

  • 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;
  1.  Central Commission
  2. State Commission.

EVOLUTION OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005

Timeline

1977:- Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai constituted a working group to determine if Official Secrets Act, 1923 could be modified so as to facilitate greater flow of information to the public.

1986: Supreme Court in the case of Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation the Supreme Court gave an explicit directive that Freedom of Speech and Expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right to Information as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens.

1994:- The organization called Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan was instrumental in the passage of RTI Act. In the course of the struggle of the rural poor in Rajasthan The MKSS's campaign demanded transparency of official records, a social audit of government spending and redressal machinery for people who had not been given their due.

Aruna Roy has been at the forefront of a number of campaigns for the rights of the poor and the marginalized. These have included, most prominently, the Right to Information, the Right to Work (the NREGA) and the Right to Food.

Arvind Kejriwal was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for his contribution to India's Right to Information Movement and empowering poor citizens to fight corruption.

  • The basic objective of Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities, contains corruption and makes our democracy work of people in real senses.
  • The Right to Information Commission is divided as:
  • 1996: With the objective of getting legislation on RTI passed National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), one among several civil society groups, was founded.

    1996:- Due to the pressing demand for right to information, the Press Council of India under guidance of its Chairman Justice P B Sawant drafted a law which was later updated and changed at a workshop and renamed "The Press Council–NIRD Freedom of Information Act, 1997.

    1997: Tamil Nadu became the first state in India to have passed a law on Right to Information.

    1997: The Madhya Pradesh Government in furtherance to implementing Right to information issued executive orders to 36 departments which later increased to more than 50 departments.

    1997: The United Front government appointed a Working Group, under the Chairmanship of H D Shourie. The Working Group drafted the Freedom of Information Bill, 1997.

    1997: Goa legislature enacted a law on Right to Information.

    1998: A Right to Information, Bill was tabled by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. The Bill didn't become Law because the Governor denied assent.

    1999: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to declare Section 5 of Official Secret Act, 1923 unconstitutional and ask Government of India to issue suitable instructions for RTI, pending legislation.

    2000: Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 was introduced in Parliament, and was referred to a Select Committee of Parliament.

    2001: NCT Delhi assembly passed a law on Right to Information.

    2002: Report of Select Committee in early 2002.

    2002: In December 2002 Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 was passed in both houses of Parliament. This was a watered down version of the bill proposed by NCPRI and other organizations.

    2002: In September, Maharashtra Government passed RTI Ordinance that overwrote the Maharashtra RTI Act, 2000.

    2002: The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Union of India vs. Association for Democratic reforms directed the Election Commission to call for information on affidavit by issuing necessary order in exercise of its power under Article 324 of the Constitution of India from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or a state legislature as a necessary part of his nomination paper.

    2003: Freedom of Information Bill after having received the assent of the President of India on 6th January, 2003, and became law. Freedom of Information Act, 2002 Act No. 5 of 2003 was enacted.

    2003: On 31st January MP Government passed MP RTI Act.

    2004: NCPRI formulated amendments to Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and forwarded to the NAC.

    2004: Finally, RTI was tabled by the UPA government on 23rd December 2004. The proposed was act was applicable only to the Central Government and thus attracted a lot of criticism. After heavy lobbying by NCPRI and other organizations the Right to Information Act, 2005 was passed with 150 amendments and was made applicable to States as well.

    2005: RTI Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on 11th May 2005, and in Rajya Sabha on 12th May 2005. It received assent of President of India on 15th June 2005, and was published in the Gazette of India on 21st June 2005. Right to Information Act, 2005 (Act No. 22 of 2005) came into force with effect from 12th October 2005.

    RIGH TO INFORMATION ACT HELPED UNCOVER SCAMS AND ANOMALIES.

    Adarsh Society Scam: A six-storey building for the widows of Kargil War, 1999 Martyr turned into a 31-storey called Adarsh Housing Society. Located in Mumbai's post residential area in Colaba soon became the abode of politicians, bureaucrats and top military officers. It was exposed by RTI activists Simpreet Singh and Yogacharya Anand. The exposed revealed that the piece of land doesn't belong to the state government but to Ministry of Defense and culminated in resignation of AshoK Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

    2G Scam: The 2G Scam or the telecom sector scandal took place in the UPA regime revolved around the government auctioning the 2G Spectrum. Top ministers had allegedly colluded to undercharge certain mobile phone companies while allocation the frequencies, in exchange for a bribe. The massive abuse of power came to light when RTI was filed by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal.

    Common Wealth Games Scam: An RTI filed by a non-profit organization revealed that Delhi government had diverted Rs 744 crore from funds earmarked for welfare of the Dalit community to the Commonwealth Games. The non-profit - Housing and Land Rights Network – also found that most of the diverted funds were expended on amenities that existed only on paper, suggesting further corruption and money laundering,

    Demonetization announced without RBI nod: Demonetization was declared in the country by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016 holding a meeting that barely lasted for three hours with Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The PM did not wait for formal approval before making the announcement. The RTI was filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak revealed that the RBI did not agree with the Center on its Jurisdiction that move curb the circulation of black money and counterfeit money.

    RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT: AMENDMENT 2019 AND CONTROVERSIES

    Right to Information bill was proposed to change tenure, salary of Central Information Commission (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs).


    BEFORE AMEDMENT

    AFTER AMENDMENT

    Section 13 of RTI 2005: The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and every Information Commissioner (IC) shall hold office for a term of 5 years or till they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

    The Central/ State Government will notify the term of office for the CIC and ICs that means no fixed tenure.

    Section 13(5) The salary of CIC and ICs will be fixed under RTI Act 2005. The salary shall be the same as that of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner

    The salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of the service will be determined by the central government.

    Conclusion: Fixed salary and tenure

    Salary and tenure will be decided by the center and state government

    UNCOMFORTABLE RTI PLEAS IN BACKGROUND

    Graduation of PM Narendra Modi from Delhi University in the year 1978

    Various RTI application seeking details about his degrees were filed in 2015 were refused by DU and the Prime Minister Office (PMO). The affidavits for the general election 214 said that he finished his undergraduate degree from DU in 1978 and MA from Gujarat University in 1983. The RTI was filed by activist Neeraj Sharma in 2015 seeking records of passed out students in the year 1978, Bachelors of Art from Delhi University. Information Commissioner (IC) Sridhar Acharyulu who was allowed inspection of PM's DU Degree Records was removed from his position by CIC R K Mathur.

    Denying the information. The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of DU had said the information requested was "personal information of the students concerned, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest". CPIO later rejected three RTIs queries on unnecessary and unreasonable grounds. Mohd Irsad filed case against University of Delhi for rejecting pleas of RTI in the High Court. The Delhi High Court imposed Rs 25,000 penalty on DU's public information officer for rejecting RTI application seeking facts about PM's graduation. Further, DU told the Delhi High Court that the BA exam records of all its students of 1978- the year when PM Narendra Modi graduated is held in fiduciary capacity and cannot be disclosed under RTI

    PMO rejected RTI plea seeking Rajan NPA list details

    The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has termed as "roving enquiry" and RTI plea seeking to know details of bad loans submitted by then RBI Governor Raghuram Ranjan. The PMO had said the query does not come under the definition of "information" as per the RTI Act.

    Section 2(f) defines 'information' as material in any form, including records, f=documents, opinion, advices, memos, emails, press releases, circulars, orders, reports, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information related to any private body, which can be accessed by a public authority.

    Meghalaya RTI activist murdered

    A Meghalaya youth leader and Right to Information activist, Poipynhun Majaw was killed.

    PM-CARES Fund 'Not a Public Authority', Doesn't fall under RTI Act: PMO

    In reply of the RTI filed by Harsha Kandukri, a student of the Azim Premji University, Bangalore, the PMO stated that the Fund is not a public authority under section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and therefore it won't be able to divulge information sought in the application. The Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief Fund was created on March 28 to deal with any emergency posed by the COVID19 pandemic.

    Next Story