Law

Right to Information

Shivam Dheeran talks about Right to Information as a law in the country.

INTRODUCTION

“The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long.”

― Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

In a study conducted by two students from National Law University, Delhi during their internship with the ministry of DOPT in 2012, after analyzing 100 applications the following facts which would otherwise have been hidden behind the veil of papers and files were found –

  1. In only 17% of the applications, the applicant was from a Rural Area.
  2. Only 4% of the applicants were Females.
  3. Only 2% of the applications were filed by BPLs.
  4. Only 19% of the applications were in Hindi.

Why aren’t the citizens of India aware of RTI even after 11 years of its implementation? Why the participation of women is meager? Is RTI really implemented in its truest sense? Is RTI really helping in curbing corruption?

 

Introduction

The Right to Information is a fundamental right guaranteed as per the Article 19 & 21 of the Constitution of India. It is a law enacted by the parliament of India giving access to information of the Central as well as State Governments, to the citizens of India. It covers all the constitutional authorities including the legislature, judiciary and executive as well all the bodies constituted by an act of parliament or state legislature.

This law applies to all of India except for the state of Jammu & Kashmir which is covered under a state level act. Any citizen may request information from a ‘public authority’ whose answer is to be given promptly or within a span of thirty days.

The most embracing feature of this act is that the information can be obtained within a period of thirty days and if the information is related to the life and liberty of a person, the same can be obtained within forty eight hours. This act also requires all the public authorities to computerize their records for wide circulation.

 

Process

Filing an RTI application is not a nightmare.

(Then why aren’t we having large participation from rural people?)

Every public authority which comes under the purview of this act has to appoint a Public Information Officer (PIO). It is an obligation of the PIO to provide for the relevant information asked by the applicant. If the request pertains to another public authority, it is the duty of the PIO to transfer the concerned portions of the act to the PIO of the relevant public authority. The reply /answer to a request has to be given within 30 days. He should make the full information available in the form it is requested by the applicant. In addition, every public authority has to appoint an Additional Public Information Officer (APIO). The work of the APIOs is to receive the request and to forward the same to their PIO. If the request is made to APIO, the answer to the same has to be given in 35 days. If the PIO transfers any request to another public authority, the answer/reply of the same has to be given within 30 days but it is computed after the request has been received by the concerned authority. If the request is for the information concerning human rights violations by scheduled security agencies, the same has to be answered within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission. As already mentioned, if the request is concerning the life and liberty of a person, the reply/answer has to be given within 48 hours. If the information requested is partly made available and the rest is rejected, the information officer has to state the reason thereof.

If everything is so damn easy, then where does the problem lie?

What if a PIO does not entertain your request?

If the Public Information Officer refuses to make the information available either partly or fully or does not respond within the given time frame or responds in an unsatisfactory manner, the applicant for information can file an appeal to the officer higher in status to that of PIO. If the appeal is allowed the officer may direct the Information Officer to provide the information in the manner asked for. If the Officer/Commission finds the Information Officer at fault, they may direct disciplinary proceedings against him and levy him with heavy penalties.

The citizen has every right to ask for the necessary information required by him. It is the obligation of the Information officer to provide the applicant with the relevant information. However, there are certain organizations mentioned in the Second Schedule of the act like IB, RAW, BSF etc whose information cannot be sought for. The excursion, however, is not absolute and these organizations have to provide information relating to corruption and human rights violation.

 

Conclusion

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is a very progressive bit of legislation. It has brought India to a whole new level of transparency. This act was designed to facilitate and further its end i.e., to know what is going on under the veil of administration which it has helped to fulfill up to a certain end. But it is not implemented in its perfect sense. This act was legislated to provide the common people with the right to know but the irony are that people don’t even know such a right exist. This bit of legislation can only be implemented to its full extent when the people of India are aware of it.  The Government needs to spread basic awareness for it in most importantly the rural areas and then only will the act be able to fulfill its desired objectives.