The Right to Information Act 2005 marks a significant shift for Indian democracy, for the greater the access of citizens to information, the greater will be the responsiveness of government to community needs.
Right To Information is derived from our fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution. If we do not have information on how our Government and Public Institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it. Democracy revolves around the basic idea of Citizens being at the center of governance. And the freedom of the press is an essential element for a democracy to function. It is thus obvious that the main reason for a free press is to ensure that Citizens are informed. Thus it clearly flows from this, that the Citizens Right To Know is paramount.
The Act and its rules define a format for requisitioning information, a time period within which information must be provided, a method of giving the information, some charges for applying and some exemptions of information which will not be given.
In recent years, there has been an almost unstoppable global trend towards recognition of the right to information by countries, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the people. The right to information has been recognized as a fundamental human right, which upholds the inherent dignity of all human beings. The right to information forms the crucial underpinning of participatory democracy – it is essential to ensure accountability and good governance. The greater the access of the citizen to information, the greater the responsiveness of government to community needs. Alternatively, the more restrictions that are placed on access, the greater will be the feelings of ‘powerlessness’ and ‘alienation’. Without information, people cannot adequately exercise their rights as citizens or make informed choice.
Some Important Sections –
The Act defines information in Sec. 2(f) as any material in any form, including the records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any law for the time being in force.
The right to information is defined in Sec. 2(j) as a right to information accessible under the Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes a right to (i) inspection of work, documents, records, (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records, (iii) taking separate 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.
Sec. 4 makes it a duty of public authorities to maintain records for easy access and to publish within 120 days the name of the particular officers who should give the information and in regard to the framing of the rules, regulations etc. Subsection (3) of sec. 4 states that for the performance of subsection (1), all information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner, which is easily accessible to the public.
Sec. 6 permits persons to obtain information in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area from the designated officers. The person need not give any reason for the request or any personal details.
Sec. 7 requires the request to be disposed of within 30 days provided that where information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours. Under Sec. 7(7) before any decision is taken for furnishing the information, the designated officer shall take into consideration the representation, if any, made by a third party under Sec. 11.
Sec. 8 exempts from disclosure certain information and contents as stated in Sub-clauses (a) to (j) thereof. Sub-clause (b) exempts information, which is expressly forbidden by any court of law or tribunal or the dispute of which may constitute contempt of court. Sub-clause (g) exempts information the disclosure of which would endanger life, or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purpose. Sub-clause (h) exempts information, which could impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. Sub-clause (i) exempts Cabinet papers.
It is important to note that the Act specifies that intelligence and security organizations are exempted from the application of the Act. However, it is provided that in case the demand for information pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violations, the Act shall apply even to such institutions.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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