RTI: The Right of India’s Common Man
Right to Information Act was passed by the Parliament of India, which replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002. Right to Information Act was passed in 2005 and is the manifestation of the fundamental rights of the citizen of procuring complete transparency between the government and the people. Under the RTI, any information can be derived from the government regarding policies, accounts, etc. Democracy puts the powers in the hands of the citizen, and RTI keeps the control with the citizen. This act makes the government accountable and increases their accountability.
The Act provides the citizen the right to information so they may secure access to the information that is under the control of public authorities, aimed to promote transparency within the governance. Every government agency is required to keep and maintain all their documents in an asked and suggested format, and need to be submitted as and when demanded. It is also necessary for the agency to make this data available for release in every state in the country. Agencies are also supposed to publish nitty-gritty of the organisation along with the duties, and powers and duties of officers present at different hierarchal levels. Internal structure and processes are to be made public. The statement that outlines the categories of documents the agency maintains and shall release under the RTI.
This Act extends to all of India barring the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The RTI provides the citizen the right to request for information from the Government sector while giving the concerned party a stipulated amount of time to release the data. Every agency that is covered under the Right to Information Act is required to appoint a Public Information Officer. He/she is the one responsible for paying heed to the requests under the Act and respond to the same. It is also the responsibility of this officer to forward the requests where necessary. The information seeker have to pay an amount of Rs. 10/- by way of postal order/DD/cheque in the name of the organisation from which information is sought.
The information that can be requested from an office extends to the following loose criteria:
- Work inspection, documents and records.
- Permission to take notes, extracts or obtaining certified copies of documents or records from the office.
- Requesting for the material samples that are queued for testing.
- Obtaining soft copies of information, especially in forms of CDs or floppies, when the said information is present in an electronic form.
There are some government authorities that are exempt from the RTI. A few of those are the Directorate General of Income Tax, Special Frontier Force, CBI, Special Branch CID, and others.
There are few topics that are exempt from the RTI as well. Following are some such topics that cannot be disclosed via Right to Information:
- Information that may jeopardise the sovereignty and veracity of India, which include the economic, strategic or scientific interests.
- Information that, if provided, can cause privilege breach of either the Parliament or the State Legislature.
- Information acquired or sourced through overseas governments and believed to be given in confidence.
- Commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property.
- Information which proves to be life threatening.
- Personal information regarding specific persons in the agency.
- Cabinet papers that include deliberations of ministers and secretaries.
- Information that could be an invasion of privacy.
Private firms may not fall within the realms of the Right to Information Act.