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.
We, The People of India, resolved to secure ourselves . . . LIBERTY of thought, expression . . . through the Preamble to our Constitution, 56 years ago.
Article 19(1) guarantees us the right to freedom of speech and expression and as recognized by the Supreme Court this also implies a full right to information. The Right to Information Act, 2005 (“the Act”) has established the necessary practical regime of right to information.
Right to information can empower citizens to take charge by participating in decision-making and by challenging corrupt and arbitrary actions at all levels. With access to government records, citizens can evaluate and determine whether the government they have elected is delivering the results that are expected. RTI is thus a tool that can change the role of the citizens from being mere spectators to that of being active participants in the process of governance.
You can seek information about your applications or complaints regarding ration cards, electricity connections, water connections and so on, pending with the public authorities and force them to redress your grievances quickly without any need of paying bribes. The Long title of the Act states that this Act promotes transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.Preamble states that the Act:
Information laws can have a positive impact on different spheres of society: politics, and public administration.
The Act gives you the right to access:
Information held by a public authority, information under the control of a public authority and includes the right to:
Information laws can have a positive impact on different spheres of society: politics, and public administration.
It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Act gives you the right to access to information held by “public authorities” which includes authorities, bodies, institution of self government which are:
Thus the Act applies to
The Act shall not apply to central intelligence and security agencies specified in the Second Schedule, and other agencies excluded by the State Governments through a Gazette Notification. However, you can seek information in respect of allegations of violations of human rights from the excluded organizations.
They may provide the information within 45 days with the approval of the Information Commission concerned.
Private bodies are not directly covered. But all the information relating to private bodies which can be accessed by a public authority can be accessed by you.
Yes. You can access information from non-Government organizations substantially financed - directly or indirectly by Government funds.
The Act defines information as any material in any form including:
The Act specifies “Records” to include:
You may not be provided the following information unless you convince the Public Information Officer that the public interest in disclosure outweighs any other interests served by non-disclosure(partial access may be provided to the part of the record which does not contain information exempted from disclosure):
Every public authority must publish in the local language the following information:
Every public authority must also:
The publications will be available to you free or at a reasonable price. The information may be made available on the internet / website of the public authority
The request for information under the Right to Information Act has to be given to Public Information Officer or Assistant Public Information Officer designated by the Public Authority
For making a request for information:
The Government of India has prescribed the following fees in respect of information requested from Government of India departments
|To submit your request||Rs. 10-00|
|To receive information :|
|For each page created / copied (in A-4 or A-3 size paper)||Rs. 2-00|
|If the paper is in larger size||Actual charge / cost price|
|Diskette / floppy||Rs. 50-00|
|Samples / Models||Actual charge / cost price|
|Printed matter||Price fixed / Rs. 2 for page of photocopy|
|For Inspection of records :|
|Each subsequent hour||Rs. 5-00|
Fees may be paid in cash / demand draft / banker’s cheque / Indian postal order payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority. Fees may vary from one state to another. Please check the fees prescribed by your State Government
Failure to provide information within the specified period is deemed as refusal.
You can prefer an appeal to a senior officer in the public authority (Designated Appellate Officer) -
Independent Central and State Information Commissions have been constituted to enforce the Act.
Second Appeal to the Information Commission can be made against the decision of the first appellate officer within 90 days from the date of the receipt of the decision or expected date of the decision where no such decision was given.
If you delay in filing an appeal sufficient cause should be shown. If you have suffered any loss or harm, you can claim compensation from the public authority.
The Information Commission first hears the PIO, so that unless it agrees with the PIO, you need not be bothered with personal presence before the Commission .However, if the Commission sees merit in the PIO’s arguments, you will be given an opportunity to present your case in person / through any other person duly authorized by you. You may opt not to be present.
You can complain to the Central / State Information Commission:
Information Commissions have the power to order a public authority
Decision of the Information Commission is binding. However, the Act does not prescribe time limit for disposal of appeal by the Commission.
The Information Commission can impose penalty of Rs. 250/- per day, up to a maximum of Rs. 25,000/- on erring PIOs for:
Without any reasonable cause:
The Commission also has powers to recommend disciplinary action against PIOs. It can also direct compensation to be paid to the appellant by the public authority.
The following case studies illustrate how citizens have used the Right to Information provisions in different contexts to uncover corruption, foster greater transparency and exact accountability from public servants.
Case Study 1: Using RTI for getting an electricity connection (Delhi)
Ashok Gupta applied to the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) for a new electricity connection, in February 2001. Because he refused to pay a bribe, for a year no action was taken on his application. In February 2002, he filed an application under the Delhi RTI Act. In his application, he asked for the following information:
In ordinary circumstances, such an application would have been consigned to the dustbin. However, given that the Delhi RTI Act mandated penalty at the rate of Rs. 50 per day of default, they had to reply to this application. In March 2002, he was granted a new connection.
Case Study 2: PIO pays Rs 8000 for providing misleading information (Maharashtra)
The imposition of Rs. 8000 as penalty on a District Sports Officer for giving incorrect information in Pune came as a wake up call for Public Information Officers (PIOs) in the State of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Right to Information (MRTI) Act permitted the imposition of a fine of Rs. 250/- per day for unreasonable delay in providing information, and permitted fines 'not exceeding Rs. 2000/- on a PIO who has knowingly given incorrect, misleading, wrong or incomplete information'.
The requester had made four application requests under the MRTI to the PIO at the District Sports Office. By citing an outdated circular, the PIO had misled the requester, claiming that there was no law on the right to request such information. Arguing that the PIO's claim was clearly misleading information, the requester called for a penalty of Rs 2000 to be imposed on the PIO. In his capacity as Appellate Authority, the Deputy Director asked the PIO to explain his actions and then reprimanded him for furnishing misleading information. The requester was not satisfied with the Deputy Director's response and informed him that as the Appellate Authority, it was imperative that he impose a penalty on the PIO.
Responding favorably, in November 2004, the Deputy Director ordered the PIO to pay a penalty of Rs. 2000 for violating Section 12(2) of the MRTI Act. Yet, the requester was adamant that the PIO be penalized for providing misleading information on all four applications made by him and should be penalized for each act of non-compliance with the law. This argument was soon conceded and the PIO was fined Rs 8000.
Case Study 3: Nannu gets his ration card & Triveni gets her PDS entitlements
Nannu is a daily wage earner. He lives in Welcome Mazdoor Colony, a slum habitation in East Delhi. He lost his ration card and applied for a duplicate in January 2004. He made several rounds to the local Food & Civil Supplies Office for the next three months. But the clerks and officials would not even look at him. Ultimately, he filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for the daily progress made on his application, names of the officials who were supposed to act on his application and what action would be taken against these officials. Within a week of filing application under Right to Information Act, he was visited by an inspector from the Food Department, who informed him that the card had been made and he could collect it from the office. When Nannu went to collect his card next day, he was given a very warm treatment by the Food & Supply Officer (FSO), who is the head of a Circle. The FSO handed over the card to Nannu, offered him tea and requested him to withdraw his application under Right to Information, since his work had already been done.
The experience of Triveni is similar to Nannu. Whenever Triveni would go to her ration shopkeeper, he would always say “No stock”. She never got her rice entitlements for several months. She was given only 10 litres of kerosene against her entitlement of 14 litres and she would get only 10-15 Kgs of wheat against her entitlement of 25 Kgs. The wheat was given to her at Rs 5 per Kg, whereas the official price is Rs 2 per Kg.
Triveni applied under the RTI Act and asked for official records of rations issued to her and also copies of cash memos purported to have been issued to her. To her utter surprise, she was told that she had been issued 25 Kgs of wheat @ Rs 2 per Kg, 14 litres of kerosene and 10 Kgs of rice every month for more than a year. The cash memos showed thumb impressions having been made in her name, whereas she always signed her signature. Naturally, the thumb impressions were found to be fake and this showed that the ration dealer had been drawing her ration by forging her thumb impressions for several months. Triveni has since filed complaints to higher authorities, and what’s more she has started getting the proper amounts of rations at the right price.
Case Study 4: Ensuring Public Health and Sanitation (New Delhi)
Within three days of filing this application, the pipeline was repaired.
Case Study 5: Rickshawpuller benefits from RTI
It has been a year since the Right to Information Act became law and people are starting to see its positive impact in their lives. Mazloom Nadaf, a 70-year old rickshaw puller in Bihar has built his own house after exercising his right to know. But he spent a long time to get his home under the Indira Awas Yogana - the country's national housing scheme. Five years after he applied, authorities demanded Rs 5000 to process his application. But he refused to given in and instead fought back with the help of the Right To Information Act in his success story
Nadaf approached the legal aid centre of an NGO working in Madhubani district and sought their assistance in drafting and filing a RTI application. In his application Mazloom asked for the daily progress report made on his application to avail of the Indira Awas Yojana. He filed his application with the Circle Officer for his block who forwarded the same to the block development officer (BDO). The BDO on receiving the RTI application sent for Mazloom and treated him like a VIP and with a lot of respect handed him a cheque of Rs. 15,000 (first instalment payment) under the Indira Awas Yojna. Mazloom's house is now under construction. He has also been assured by the BDO that all his other requests will also be taken care of.
Sunday, July 2, 2006 (Jhanjharpur, Bihar):
Case Study 6: Five women receive their pension while attempting to file an RTI application (Rajasthan)
Ramkaran from Tilonia took 5 women to submit a right to information application on the issue of old age and widow pension to the SDM’s office. The SDM immediately called the concerned officer from the pension department. He told the officer that for the last 4 months these women have not received their pension, and the files should be brought to his table immediately. Before accepting the application he began questioning the officer on the issue.
The officer informed that these women had not filed their birth certificates and that was delaying the release of their pension. The SDM instructed the officer to release their pensions and take their birth dates from Ramkaran and the Patwari (government officer who oversees the matter related to land) of the village. So without filing an application the four women were given their four month pension immediately even though the office had closed down and they would have had to wait for the next day under normal circumstances.