Shreya Mundra explains about the right to information as a human right and as a right conferred under the RTI Act, 2005.
With the growing changes country, there was a requirement for greater transparency and accountability of all the organs of the government, which thereby, made a compulsion on the Parliament to enact a law which could justify the growing demands of the citizens. Hence , the Right to Information Act, 2005, was enacted, which abolished the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
The reasons for abolishing of the Freedom of Information Act, 2002, was due to its unaccountability to have an independent appeal mechanism and its glut exemptions towards the public authority. Further, the non-inclusion of private bodies and the fact that it was notified but could not be brought into force as to certain reasons, also necessitated the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
As per the U.N General Assembly Resolution, 1946, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the Right to Information is given recognition as a human right. Furthermore, it is a guaranteed right by Constitution under Article 19 and Article 21. Also, the Supreme Court in the case of Subash Chandra Agarwal , held that the Right to Information Act, 2005, merely recognizes the constitutional right of the citizens under Article 19(1)(a).
As per the Sec. 3 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, all the citizens shall have the right to information. The Apex Court in the case of Hindustan Times vs. High court of Allahabad held –
“It is important to make people part of the governing process”.
After 2005, all the citizens of the nation have been conferred with the right to know about the activities of any public authority, except for the ones which are exempted by the Act, The Sec. 8 of the Act has clearly explained as to what comes under a public authority, while the Sec. 2 of the Act defines ‘public authority‘, as an authority which is established:
(i) by the Constitution
(ii) by any other law of the Parliament
(iii) by any other law made by the State Legislature
(iv) anybody controlled or substantially financed by the government
(iv) an NGO substantially financed by the government
Designation of the Public Information Officers (PIO)
Every Administrative unit of the Public Authority must have a PIO at both the levels of the Government.
PIO has an obligation to give the information asked by the person within 30 days of the receipt of the information sought.
Procedure for obtaining Information
The person who wants any information must request, in writing or by electronic means, in English, Hindi or any designated language of the State, with the prescribed fee.
However, the reason for seeking such information need not be given to the PIO, as per Sec. 6 of the Act.
Disposal of Request
The information for which the request has been made by the person should be given by the PIO in 30 days of the receipt of the information. However, if the request has been rejected by the PIO, then the reasons for such rejection, the period to file an appeal and the particulars of that appellate Authority shall be given to the person who seeks such information.
Information exempted from disclosures
Information protected from disclosure include :
(i) Any information which prejudicially affects the sovereignty and integrity of the country
(ii) Any information which is expressly forbidden to be published either by court or by law
(iii)Any information which causes breach of privilege to the Parliament
(iv) Any information on commercial confidence or trade secrets or IPR
(v) Any information received in confidence from foreign government
(vi) Any information of cabinet papers of council of ministers or other officers
(vii) Any information which endangers the physical safety of person
(viii) Any information received in fiduciary relationship to a person
(ix) Any information relating to process of investigation or prosecution
However, there is a severability clause embedded in the Act, which gives that, where the information sought is a part of information which cannot be disclosed, then the rest of the information which can be revealed must be supplied.
Applicability of the Act
This Act is not applicable to certain organizations like Border Security Forces, Aviation Research Centre, Defense Research Organizations and all such organizations listed in the Second Schedule, as per Sec. 24 of the Act.
To conclude, it is pertinent to regard that the right to information is a weapon which is to be adequately used by both the person seeking information and the Government.
The Right of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.
The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.