Right To Information Act (2005)

The Constitution of India has no direct provision expressly conferring right to information to the citizens. However, the Supreme Court has been stating since 1975 that the right to information is an intrinsic part of the following two fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India:
  • Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression (Article 19).
  • Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21).
  • Recognising the need for setting out a practical regime for securing of information by citizens from the public authorities, and to promote transparency and accountability in the working of all public authorities, the Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act in 2005.
  • The law is comprehensive and covers disclosure of information on almost all matters of governance. It is applicable to Government at all levels—Central, State and Local (both rural and urban) and also to the bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government, as well as to the non-governmental organisations receiving government grants. It covers the legislature, the judiciary, the executive and all constitutional bodies.
The salient features (or provisions) of the Act are mentioned below:

  • The Act confers on all citizens the right of access to the information and, correspondingly, makes the dissemination of such information an obligation on all public authorities.
  • It provides for the appointment of a public information officer in each department to provide information to the public on request.
  • It fixes a 30-day deadline for providing information; deadline is 48 hours if information concerns life or liberty of a person.
  • Information will be free for people below poverty line. For others, fee will be reasonable.
  • The Act imposes obligation on public agencies to disclose the information suo-motu to reduce requests for an information.
  • Government bodies have to publish details of staff payments and budgets.
  • Certain types of information are exempted from disclosure. These relate to sovereignty and integrity of India, security, scientific or economic interest of the country, cabinet deliberations and so on.
  • A public information officer may reject a request for information if it involves an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the state.
  • Restrictions are made for third party information. The submission of third party is to be considered while taking a decision about disclosure of information.
  • It provides for the establishment of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions to implement the provisions of the Act.
  • They will be high-powered independent bodies to act as appellate authorities and vested with the powers of a civil court.
  • Its purview does not extend to intelligence and security organisations like Intelligence Bureau, RAW, BSF, CISF, NSG and so on.
  • However, information pertaining to allegations of corruption or violation of human rights by these organisations will not be excluded.

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