Right to Information Act, 2005
Right to Information (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Emblem of India.svg
It is an act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to under control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
A receipt for payment of fee for collecting information under RTI act
This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. The first application was given to a Pune police station. Information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes. It codifies a fundamental right of the citizens of India.
The Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir, where J&K Right to Information Act is in force. It covers all the constitutional authorities, including executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. It is also defined in the Act that bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of appropriate government including bodies "owned, controlled or substantially financed" by government, or non-Government organizations "substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds".
Private bodies are not within the Act's ambit directly. In a decision of Sarbjit roy vs Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatised public utility companies fall within the purview of RTI. As of 2014, private institutions and NGOs receiving over 95% of their infrastructure funds from the government come under the Act.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) held that the political parties are public authorities and are answerable to citizens under the RTI Act. The CIC said that six national parties - Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP and BJD - has been substantially funded indirectly by the Central Government and have the character of public authorities under the RTI Act as they perform public functions. But in August 2013 the government introduced a Right To Information (Amendment) Bill which would remove political parties from the scope of the law.
Governance and Process
The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies:
Central Information Commission (CIC) – Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public Information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India.
State Information Commissions-State Public Information Officers or SPIOs – Heading over all the state department and ministries the SPIO office is directly under the State Governor.
State and Central Information Commissions are independent bodies and Central Information Commission has no jurisdiction over the State Information Commission.
The Right to information in India has been mired with controversies ranging from their use in political battles, asking for educational degrees of political rivals, or cases of blatant refusals to provide information on high profile projects to allegations of misuse by civil society.
Digital Right to Information System
A digital portal has been set up, RTI Portal, a gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments. It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various Public Authorities under the Government of India as well as the State Governments.
Though there are recent efforts on digital governance, Right to Information implementation has seen a digitalisation neglect even after 11 years of its enactment. A recent research on 'BallotBoxIndia' outlines that though central ministries are covered by a single Digital window to file Right to Information requests with integrated payment gateways and tracking mechanism none of the states have yet came forward to implement their versions or use the existing Right to Information Digital Infrastructure. The research report covering 29 states and union territories also highlights the responses from the SPIOs (State Public Information Officers). Researchers in the study focussed on the Digital implementation and asked about plans or timeline to provide such facility. 64% State Public Information failed to respond while the rest of the responses merely took cognizance without any hard timelines. The research also covers in details - the difficulty in filing manual Right to Information requests with the states with delays ranging many months of wait time and various follow ups and rejections. Every state in India has different rules and fee structures to file an application through registered post without any tracking mechanism as covered in details in the report.
An Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for
citi]ens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparenc\ and accountabilit\ in the working of ever\ public authorit\, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.