Right To Information Act: A Powerful Tool For Citizens

When did it come into force?

It came into force on 12 October 2005 (10th day of its enactment on 15 June 2005). In 2002, to promote transparency and accountability Freedom of Information Act was enacted but to make it more effective, it was repealed and the right to information bill 2004 was passed by parliament in May 2005. It received president’s assent on 15 June 2005 and became fully operational on 12 Oct.

What does information mean?

Information means any material in any form. It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electric form. Information relating to private body which a public authority can access under any law is also included. 

What is RTI Act?

  • RTI act can be called a law of transparency or a weapon in the hands of a common man to fight against corruption and unethical provisions. This act empowers a citizen to seek information from a public authority in order to analyse their performance. It includes inspection of work, documents and records, taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records held by public authority or held under the authority of public authority. Information could be provided in the form of printed outputs or any electronic mode. 
  • It does not make provision for giving information to Corporations, Associations, Companies etc. which are legal entities/persons, but not citizens. However, if an application is made by an employee or office-bearer of any Corporation, Association, Company, NGO etc. indicating his name and such employee/office bearer is a citizen of India; information may be supplied to him/her.

Why is RTI act beneficial?

  • India is a democratic nation and it makes a country answerable to a common person. RTI fulfills the basic aim of democracy as any citizen of country can get information about government action thus encouraging freedom as well as transparency. From 2005 till present many a times RTI’s were responsible for disclosing incidents of corruption and irregularities of different authorities. 
  • For example – RTI application by activist Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 exposed the infamous Adarsh Housing society scam, which eventually led to the resignation of the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.
  • The RTI Act was also used to expose corruption after the Commonwealth Games scam, in which the corrupt deals by politician Suresh Kalmadi embarrassed the nation.
  • An RTI query in July 2016 showed that only 12 members of the Maharashtra Cabinet have declared their assets and liabilities details as per Central governments code of conduct for ministers.

Who is covered under this act?

This act is applicable to every Indian state expect Jammu and Kashmir. Agencies like RAW, IB, RAW, are excluded as well as the information which may affect the security and sovereignty of country can’t be provided.

When was first RTI filed?

  • The first RTI was filed on 12 October 2005 by Shahid Raza Burney to a police station in Pune. 

What is Central Information commission (CIC)?

Central Information Commission was constituted by the Central Government through a Gazette Notification in October 2005. The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India. Oath of Office is administered by the President of India according to the form set out in the First Schedule.

Powers and Functions of the Central Information Commission

  •  CIC has the authority to receive complaints from the person related to the RTI Act, enquire into the matter and take disciplinary actions. If necessary, it can also impose penalties on central PIO's if they violate the provisions of this act or can suggest recommendations to make this act easily accessible to general public.
  • It can impose a penalty of Rs. 250 per day on public authorities but the maximum amount it can impose is Rs. 25000. 
  • The decision of the Commission can't be challenged in any other court of law.
  • While inquiring into any complaint, it can examine any record under the control of the public authority and on no ground, such record can be withheld from it.
  • The Commission can recommend necessary changes to the government every year in the matters that affect the functionality of RTI Act

What is the fee for seeking information?

  • The applicant has to pay Rs 10 either through demand draft or cheques or postal order to the Account Officer of public authority. It could also be paid through net banking or directly in cash. The applicant may be required to pay further fee for the information to be furnished which is intimated to the applicant by PIO. 
  • But if a person belongs to below poverty line (BPL) category he is not required to pay any fee provided he submits a proof for it. 

Who is PIO and APIO?

Public Information Officers (PIO) and Assistant Public Information Officers (APIO) are appointed by public authorities. While PIO provide information to a person who seeks information under RTI act, APIO works at sub-divisional level and receives RTI application or appeals from the person and supplies it to PIO or appellate authority.

What is the format of RTI application? 

  • Just a single handwritten query on a plain paper containing applicant’s address is enough from your end to get your concerned information from the government authority. Even this act makes a common man so powerful that the person does not need to show any reason why he or she needs such information.
  • Department of Personnel & Training has launched a web portal namely RTI online with URL www.rtionline.gov.in for all Central Ministries/Departments. This is a facility for the Indian citizens to file RTI applications and first appeals online to all Central Ministries/Departments

What is the maximum time period for supplying information?

In normal course it is 30 days and rest depends upon the information for which you have asked.
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