Introduction – Right to Information
True democracy cannot exist unless all citizens have right to participates in the affairs of the polity of the country. The right to participate in the affairs of the country is meaningless unless citizens are well informed on all sides of the issues in respect of which they are called upon to express their views. One sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information all equally create uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce when medium of information is monopolized either by state or any other organization.
This is particularly so in a country like ours when about 65 percent of the population is illiterate and hardly 11/2 percent of population has an access to the print print media. The government has shown political will by enacting the Right to Information Act,2005. The Act shall confer statutory right to citizens for seeking information from the administration.
Information is currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of the society. Information is basis for knowledge which provokes thought, and without process, there is no expression. The citizens right to know the facts, the true facts, about the administration of the country is thus one of the pillars of a democratic State. Right to Information bring transparency, accountability and fairness in system. public access to government information enables citizens to exercise their political choice meaningfully.
Meaning of Information under RTI Act, 2005
The Act defines information in section 2(f) as any material in any form, including the records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, log books, 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 law for the time being in force.
The right to information is defined in sec. 2(j) as a right to information accessible under the Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes a right to
- Inspection to work, documents, records
- Taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records
- Taking separate 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.
Meaning of Public Authority Under RTI Act, 2005
As defined in Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self Government established or constituted-
- under the constitution
- Any other law made by Parliament
- Any other law made by State Legislature
- Notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-(1) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (2) Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government”.
Right to Information is not absolute-Exemptions
The right to seek information from a public authority is not absolute. Sections 8 and 9 of the Act enumerate the categories of information which are exempt form disclosure. At the same time Schedule II of the Act contains the names of the Intelligence and Security Organizations which are exempt form the purview of the Act. The exemption of the organization, however, does not cover supply of information relating to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. These Exemptions are as follows-
(a) Which affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country; security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State, relation with other States and incitement to an offence
(b) Information forbidden by the court of law to be published
(c) Which would cause breach of privileges of parliament or state legislature
(d) Commercial interests or trade secrets if they affect the competitiveness
(e) Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship unless required for larger public interest
(f) Information received in confidence form foreign government
(g) Danger to the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes
(h) Information which impedes the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders
(i) Cabinet papers including deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officials. However, information in this regard shall be disclosed if not otherwise protected, after the decision has been taken and matter is over
(j) Personal information not connected with public activity unless larger public interest justifies the disclosure, provided that information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or State legislature shall not be denied to any person (The Act tries to balance right to information and right to privacy which emanates from Article 21 of the Constitution. Therefore, personal information shall not be disclosed as it would lead to unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual)
(k) Infringement of copyright of ant person other than State
N N Dhumane v PIO, Department of posts (CIC,2018)
The order of central Information commissioner (CIC) in this recent case is a remarkable one as it condemns the act of Department of posts in denying payment of pension for want of Aadhar Card. Other key observation made by the CIC in the case was that payment of pension is a matter of life or liberty under the RTI Act and applications relating to payment of pension shall be disposed by the public Information Officers within 48 hours.
Vishwas Bhamburkar v PIO, Housing & Urban Development Corporation (CIC, 2018)
In this case CIC was confronted with two centric issues under Right to Information Act, 2015. One pertaining to word limit in RTI application and the other relating to denial of information on lack of producing identity proof by the applicant.
The CIC in the case held that the impugned application was not hit by any exception under the RTI Act. That the CPIO in the case raised suspicion about the citizenship of the applicant without explaining why he was suspecting. There was nothing to justify his suspicion. That the CPIO failed to justify the denial of information, as he could not site any clause of exception under Section 8 (exemption from disclosure of information) or section 9 (grounds for rejection to access in certain cases)
Every citizen has a right to impart and receive information as part or his right to know. The state is not only under the obligation to respect this right of the citizen but equally under an obligation to ensure condition under which this right can be meaningful and effectively enjoyed by one and all. Right to know is the basic indivisible from a democratic polity. This right include right to acquire information and it disseminate it. Right to information is necessary for self expression, which is an important means of free conscience and self-fulfillment.
It enables people to contribute on social and moral, issue it is the best way to find a truest model of anything, since it is an only through it that widest possible of ideas can be circulated. The right can be only limited by reasonable restriction under a law for the purpose mention in article 19(2) of our constitution. Right to information is only available to citizens of our country.
Law center-II, Faculty of law, Delhi University, 2nd year, student