“Information is the currency of democracy”.
The ‘Right To Information’ (RTI) Act was introduced in 2005 with a sole objectthatis to empower the citizens,promote transparency andaccountability in the working of the Government,contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in the real sense.Right to Information is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India which says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression.The Right To Information Act mandates that timely response should be given to any citizen who asks for the information. This initiative is taken by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to ensure a portal for quick search of information to citizens about the Government.
Right to Information Act 2005, empowers every citizen to:
- Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information.
- Take copies of any Government documents.
- Inspect any Government documents.
- Inspect any Government works
- Take samples of materials of any Government work.
Recently the Central Information Commission (CIC) announced that as soon as an RTI applicant files an appeal or a complaint, he would be given a registration number and would get an alert on his email and mobile phone. Then the case would be transferred immediately to the concerned Information Commissioner’s Registry electronically. The CIC now would work like an e-court with all its case files moving digitally and the applicant being alerted about case hearings through an SMS and email.
According to a recent study conducted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), 4,800 applications are being filedeveryday to access information from the Government across India. This is the first decadal study conducted after Right to Information (RTI) Act implemented in October 2005. This study has revealed that over 1.75 crore applications have been filed since 2005, out of which, one-fourth being requests to the Centre. It also reveals that 27.2% (47.66 lakh) of the total RTIs filed between 2005 and 2015 were to the different ministries and departments under the Centre.
The study shows that the actual number of RTI applications could be higher since many public authorities do not report their annual compliance and thus the number of applications filed with them does not get accounted. Under Section 25 of RTI Act, all public authorities under Centre and State Governments are required to submit annual status of implementation to Information Commissions but the basic responsibilities of publishing annual reports and having functional websites are not followed by the State Commissions. Some of the State Information Commissions have not published any annual report on their website and some have been doing it erratically. Some of them do not have a functional website for example the Information Commission of Goa. Also, the Information Commissions follow disparate cycles of annual reporting – some follow calendar year and some adopt the financial year reporting cycle. The State Information Commissions, the final Appellate Authorities in the States for RTI Act, also have been playing truant as far as their responsibilities are concerned.
CHRI’s Official says, “The number of RTI applications need to reduce. For this, the Governments need to identify frequently asked questions and proactively disclose that information. The Governments also must fulfill their obligations of spreading awareness about RTI with particular focus on the disadvantaged segments of society.”
FEW THINGSONE NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THE ACT AND FILING AN RTI PLEA-
- Every public authority has an obligation to maintain computerized versions of all records in such a way that it can be accessed over a network anywhere in the country and issued to the person who has requested for information.
- Every public authority should provide essential information to the public through various channels of information (including internet) at frequent intervals so that the use of the RTI Act to obtain information can be kept to a bare minimum.
- Any person who desires to obtain information shall submit a written or electronic request/application in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area to the Central Public Information Officer or his/her counterpart at the state level or local authority such as the municipal administration/panchayat, while others are handled by the Central Government.
- The law mandates that the information should be provided in 30 days and if it is rejected, the Public Information Officer or his/her equivalent will communicate the reason for rejection, if this does not happen, he can file an appeal. The first appeal should be addressed to ‘The Appellate Authority’ with the name of the department and the address. The Appellate Authority is mandated to revert in 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal. If the Appellate Authority fails to reply, further appeals lie with the Information Commission, the Chief Information Commissioner, State/Central Information Commission.
- The Authority will be under no obligation to provide such information that might hurt the sovereignty and integrity of India, information that has been forbidden to be shared by any court of law, information received under confidence by a foreign Government and cabinet papers.
THE INDIAN LAWYER