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RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Updated: Jun 16

Written By: Upasana Borah, N.E.F Law College, Guwahati, Assam

“A citizen has the right to seek such information from the public authority which is held by public authority or which is held under its control. The right includes inspection of work, documents and records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents and records; taking certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority”.[1]


INTRODUCTION

The word “information” is derived from the latin word “inform” which was accepted as “inform” and “information” in English. The term Information means any material in any form either written or spoken. It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, advices, data material held in electronic form etc. [2] It also includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being forced. Unlike oxygen to the Human Body, the information is to any democracy. Right to Information is our basic democratic requirement. It is not possible to have a rightful expression as a right without the Right to Information which is the basis of Freedom of Speech and Expression under the Indian Constitution Article 19(1) , Part-III. Right to Information is not a fundamental right but it is a legal right for every citizen of INDIA and the authorities under the Act is Quasi-Judicial Authorities. The representative rulers should allow the real sovereigns i.e the people to decide the matter and the people will have to decided or take part in every decision making process. [3]The Right to Information Act was made to achieve social justice, transparency and to make accountable government but this act has not achieved its full objectives due to some impediments created due to systematic failures.


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAW IN INDIA

The Right to Information was harnessed as a tool for promoting development; strengthening the democratic governance and effective delivery of socio-economic services. Acquisition of information and knowledge and its application have intense and pervasive impact on the process of taking informed decision, resulting in overall productivity gains. It is also said that the information and knowledge are critical for realizing all human aspirations such as improvement in the quality of life. Sharing of Information, for instance about the new techniques of farming , health care facilities, hazards of environmental degradation, legal remedies for combating gender bias etc have overtime made significant contributions to the well being of poor life. The constitutional provisions and Supreme Court‟s Judgments has took there all movements for the Right to Information in India that has been originated from the grass roots level.


 The right to information gained power when Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 providing everyone the right to seek, receive, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.[4]


 The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights 1966 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds.


 According to Thomas Jefferson “Information is the currency of democracy,” and critical to the emergence and development of a vibrant civil society. However, with a view to set out a practical regime for the citizens to secure information as a matter of right, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005.


 Genesis of RTI law started in 1986, through judgement of Supreme Court in Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case, in which it directed that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right to Information, as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens.


NEED FOR RIGHT TO INFORMATION


As once said by Abraham Lincoln the word “Democracy” means a Government of the people, for the people and by the people. India‟s biggest democracy in the World is with a population of one billion. [5] The term “DEMOCRCAY” is derived from the Greek word “Demos” which means „the people‟ and “Kratos” means „Authority‟. Our Constitution is democratic and federal in nature and the citizens have the right to know about the affairs conducted by the government which have been elected by the citizens for the welfare of the society which seeks to formulate some policies of governance as aimed for the welfare of the common people. [6]Right to Information (RTI) is an act regulated by the Parliament of India that sets out the foundations and procedures regarding the citizens of India seeking information. It has replaced the previous Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of the state) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days just in case of matter involving a petitioner's life and personal liberty, the data has to be provided within 48 hours. RTI was passed by Parliament in the year of 15 June 2005 and came into force on 12 October 2005. Every day, over 4800 RTI applications are filed.


The citizens of a country have a right to impart and receive information as part of their right to know. The state is not only under obligation to respect these rights of the citizens. The Right to information is need under following reasons-

1. Necessary of self expression

2. Developing of the society.

3. Necessary to know about acts done in public domain.

4. Crucial for functioning of democracy.

5. Helping in combating corruption.

6. Protection for civil liberties.

7. Elixir for the media.

8. Assures citizens for participating in democracy.


MEANING OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION


Section 2 of RTI, defines the following:-

(f) "Information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form[7]


(j) "Right to Information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to—

(i) inspection of work, documents, records;

(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;

(iii) taking certified samples of material;

(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;[8]


As no right can be absolute in the same manner Right to Information Act, 2005 also has its limitations therefore only that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information can be provided. The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides an effective framework for effectuating the right to information recognized under Article 19(1)(a)of the Indian Constitution.


PRINCIPLES OF THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005


Following are the principles of The Right to Information Act, 2005-

1. Maximum Disclosure- Freedom of Information legislation should be guided by the principle of maximum disclosure which involves a presumption that all information held by public bodies are the subject matter to disclosure.

2. Obligations to Publish- Freedom of Information requires public bodies to do more accede to request for information.[9] They must also actively publish and disseminate key categories of information of significant public interest.

3. Protection of open Government- Freedom of Information legislation needs to make provisions for information of the public about their access rights and promoting cultures and also make the scope available for all.

4. Limited Scope of Exceptions- Requests for information should be met unless the public body shows that the information falls within the category of exception. They are-

a. The information must relate to legitimate aim listed in the law.

b. Disclosure must not threaten substantial harm to the aim.

c. The harm must be greater than the public interest in disclosure.[10]

5. Costs- The cost of access to information should never be so high as to deter the requests and public interest should be subject to lower or no fees.

6. Open Meetings- [11]Freedom of Information legislation should establish the presumption that all meetings of governing bodies are open to the public.

In the light of the law guaranteeing the right to information the citizens have the fundamental right to know what he government is doing in its nature. The freedom of speech is the life blood of democracy.


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