We, the people of India, pay taxes from our earnings so that the nation can run. We give our tax to the government; it means the government is mainly there to serve us and not to serve themselves.
As we are paying taxes, we should have every right to know how the government is spending that money. And how do we keep a check on them, by having access to information that compiles their functioning?
What is RTI?
Right to information popularly known as RTI is a fundamental right given by our constitution under article 19.1. The article 19.1 says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. In 1976 the Supreme Court said that people could not speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, the Right to Information is embedded in article 19.1 and is a fundamental right.
In the same case court also said that India is a democracy and peoples are the masters; therefore, the masters or the people have a right to know how the government means to serve them are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes; the citizens, therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent.
The meaning of ‘Information’ according to the RTI Act
Any material in any form including records, documents, memos, email, opinion, advice, press release, circulars, orders logbook, contracts, report, paper, 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 other law for the time being in force.
Objectives of Right to Information Act 2005:
- To offer a legal framework of citizens to access information.
- To promote accountability of every public authority, thereby reducing corruption.
- To harmonise conflicting interest and prioritise operations of government, and use of resources.
- To preserve the ideals of democracy.
Salient features of RTI Act 2005:
- The RTI Act empowers citizens to inspect government documents, government works and ask any information from the government.
- You can seek information from any government, be it the State or Central government, from Panchayati raj and any other organization owned, controlled and financed by the State or Central government.
- At Least one officer has been designated as a public information officer (PIOs) and it accepts the request forms and offers information sought by the public.
- In every district/divisional level, there are assistant public information officers who receive requests for information and then further appeal against the decisions of the public information officers. They also send the requests to the appropriate authorities (Section 5(1)).
- Every person who seeks information must file an application through electronic means or in writing in Hindi or English language.
- In case, the request cannot be made in writing, the PIO would be rendering all the reasonable assistance to make the request orally for reducing the same in the writing (Section 6(1)).
- In case the applicant is deaf, blind or impaired, the public authority must offer assistance to allow access of all the important information (Section 7(4)).
- Besides the applicant’s contact details, the applicant isn’t required to give any reasons for requesting the information or any other personal details.
- In case PIO, doesn’t furnish information timely, then the applicant can file a complaint against him.
- Any information that cannot be denied to the legislative assembly or parliament cannot be denied to a common man.
- If a PIO fails to furnish information asked under the Act, then PIO might be liable to pay off Rs. 250 per day for each delay. The information commission can also recommend disciplinary action against the concerned PIO as per (Section 20 (2)).
How to File an RTI Application?
There are three steps to file an RTI Application:
1: Writing an application specified with all the particulars of information.
2: Submission of evidence of payment of application fee.
3: Sending the application to the concerned Assistant Public Information/ Public Information Officer.
Essentials of RTI Application:
- Format of RTI Application: There is no as such prescribed format of application for seeking information. It can be made on a plain paper. But it must have the name and complete postal address of the applicant.
- Language of RTI Application: It can be made either in Hindi or English or any official area of that particular area.
- Fees charged: The fees required to file RTI is always reasonable and calculation details are disclosed to the applicant.
- 4. Timeline to be heard: Total duration is 30 days from the date of application to receive information.
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.
It is well recognized that right to information is necessary, but not sufficient, to improve governance. A lot more needs to be done to usher in accountability in governance, including protection of whistle-blowers, decentralization of power and fusion of authority with accountability at all levels.
This law provides us a priceless opportunity to redesign the processes of governance, particularly at the grass roots level where the citizens’ interface is maximum.
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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