Right to Information

Right to Information: A Fundamental Right?

What is the Right to Information?

Right to Information is a right of a citizen of India, where a citizen has the freedom to know and get any information from the government. At the same time, the public authorities or state government are bound by the provisions of this Act to furnish all the required information as asked by the citizens vide an application filed as an RTI. Through RTI, the citizens and non-governmental organizations enjoy free access to all files and documents pertaining to the government operations, decisions, and performance but this free access is subject to reasonable restrictions. The RTI acts as a tool to make the government accountable and transparent towards its working.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 permits the citizen of India to have access to any information (with reasonable restriction) from the public authorities and also provides a very simple procedure for availing such information from the public authorities. The said act applies to both the Central and the State Governments of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir because it has its own act called Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009. Under the provisions of the Right to Information Act 2005, any person being a citizen of India may request to a public authority for obtaining any kind of information. after the public authorities receive the application, they are bound to furnish the information within 30 days to the citizens.

The need for RTI:

Basically ‘Right to information’ is a right of the citizens of India, where a citizen can get any information from the government and its various implements at all levels which are substantially financed either directly or indirectly by the government and known as a public authority.

The main objective behind the enactment of the RTI Act is to provide information to the citizens of India and at the same time to control corruption and to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The other reason behind the RTI act was to reduce the gap between the government and its citizens.

The Right to Information Act further:

  • Makes people aware of government decision-making.
  • Promotes openness and transparency in the work of the government.
  • Reduces the opportunity of abuse of authority by the public servants.
  • Increases people’s participation in administration.
  • Improves Service Delivery and Government Functioning
  • Promotes Access to Services/Entitlements
  • Promotes Economic Growth
  • Survival of Democracy
  • Strengthens Press Freedom
  • Facilitates intelligent and constructive criticism of the government.

Application of RTI to Private Sector:

The Right to Information Act does not apply to the Private Sector and to the personal information of an employee. The Act is applicable in respect of public authorities established by the Central Government, State Government, administration of Union Territories, and other authorities such as Panchayat, municipality, or local bodies. The NGOs substantially aided by the government also comes under the preview of RTI.

Whereas, the private bodies or authorities are not obliged to furnish any sort of information. The Act is applicable and operative in the public sector only. While in respect of personal information of an employee, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that the service details of an employee cannot be shared under the RTI act unless it involves larger public interests.

Is the Right to information our fundamental right?

In the year 1976, the Supreme Court in the matter of Raj Narain vs the State of Uttar Pradesh observed that the right to information shall be treated as a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a). But Article 19(2) imposes a reasonable restriction as to how much one can avail of the information. The 19(2) of the Indian Constitution permits State to make any law in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights conferred by Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian constitution in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India. Thus the Right to Information is our fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. But is subject to Article 19(2).

Conditions for filing an application under the RTI Act are:

  • The applicant should be a citizen of India.
  • An application may be in English or Hindi or the official language of the state.
  • The particulars of information should be contained in the application.
  • Payment of application fee should be enclosed. (no fee requires if an applicant belong to poverty)
  • The address of the applicant should be available for sending a reply.
  • Personal detail or information of an employee cannot be shared
  • Personal details except the necessary for contacting an applicant are neither required to be mentioned nor can be called for by the PIO.

Whereas, some states have prescribed format for RTI applications

What is the procedure to get information under RTI?

A person who is desirous to get information shall have to make a request in writing or through electronic means with the requites fee to-

  1. Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer
  2. Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer.

You can file an RTI application by any of three procedures:

  1. By Physical Delivery
  2. By Post- a citizen of India can write an application on a paper in English or Hindi or the official language of the state; send it to the concerned authority via speed post or registered post.
  3. Online- a citizen of India can apply online RTI through the RTI Online Portal by simply clicking on https://rtionline.gov.in/. There are multiple websites, where an applicant can file an application online.

 

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By- Upasna Sharma