The very existence of a democratic system depends upon equal rights for its people, freedom of speech, and a fair trial and tolerating the views of minorities. In the same way, the government represents the interests of its citizens, so it becomes essential that the government or its representatives freely express their ideologies before the public. There has to be transparency in the working of the government, where the free flow of information is a must for spreading awareness regarding the rights of the citizens of a democratic society. Thus, the right to information that is part and parcel of freedom of speech and expression is indispensable for ensuring transparency and accountability of good governance.
What is RTI?
The “Right to Information” is commonly known as “RTI.” The Right to information is a part of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, enshrined under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. The Right to Information has been made a statutory right through the Parliament’s enactment, the Right to Information Act, 2005. This Act is often termed as revolutionary, as a common man can demand any government agency to furnish information by using this right. Further, this Act mandates timely response to citizens’ requests for government information.
Section 2(j) of the RTI Act defines “right to information,” which means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority.
Rights available under RTI Act:
- Seek any information which is held by any public authority.
- Take copies of government documents.
- Inspect works, documents, records of government.
- Take notes, extracts, or certified copies of government documents or records.
- Take certified samples of Government work.
- Obtain 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.
Objective of RTI
The motive behind making the Right to Information a statutory right is to secure access to information for the citizens which is under the control of public authorities. To empower citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work in the real sense is the basic objective of the Right to Information Act. As it goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make them more accountable to the governed. The Act is an initiative towards making the citizens well-informed about the activities of the Government and all the public authorities under it.
Which information can be sought under RTI?
As per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005, ‘information’ means material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which a public authority can access under any other law for the time being in force.
According to this definition provided by the RTI Act, citizens can seek information from any Public Authority. The power given to the citizens under the RTI Act is limitless. Yet, the Public Authority can refuse details sought through an RTI application pertaining to national security and defense or some personal information.
It must be noted that opinions cannot be sought under the RTI Act.
Who can apply under RTI?
Section 3 of the RTI Act empowers citizens to have the right to information, but any person can avail this right to receive information under Section 6 of the Act, as the ambit of Section 6 is wider than Section 3. This was held in the matter of Chief Information Commissioner v. the State of Manipur.
Public Authority under RTI Act
Public Authority is defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. It states that any authority or body or institution of self-government which is established or constituted:
- by or under the Constitution;
- by any other law made by Parliament;
- by any other law made by the State legislature;
- by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government;
and includes any-
- body owned, controlled, or substantially financed;
- non-governmental organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government.
Government departments that are exempted from the Act
Total 20 organizations are exempted from the RTI Act, as Section 24 of the Act states that the Act shall not apply to certain organizations. These organizations are all concerned with the country’s defense, intelligence, such as RAW, BSF, CRPF, CISF, Intelligence Bureau, National Security Guard, etc.
In case the applicant doesn’t receive the information sought for or is unsatisfied with the information so received, he/she may file an appeal with the First Appellate Authority as provided under Section 19(1) of the RTI Act. The first appeal has to be filed within 30 days of receipt of information or within 60 days of filing the RTI application where no information is provided within the prescribed time limit. Further, suppose you do not receive information even after filing the first appeal or aggrieved with the First Appellate Authority order. In that case, you can apply for a second appeal.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 is indeed an effective initiative to create transparency and keep a check on the working the public offices. Through RTI, these public authorities come under the scrutiny of the public, and the citizens get to know more about the system of the Government by having access to the information under the RTI Act. It makes the government accountable and helps in constraining unbridled corruption, which takes place in the offices of the public authorities. Corruption is a menace; there can be no welfare of society if it is not curbed. Thus, RTI is a powerful tool for the citizens to get information about the working of the Government departments, know where the funds are being used, paid in the form of taxes, and so on. Yet, there is a long way to go, as the online portals of the States need to function appropriately for facilitating this service.
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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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.
We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge