Right To Information applications can be filed by the citizens for seeking information from various departments of State and Central government. The word ‘information’ is defined under Section 2(f) of Right to Information Act, 2005 as, “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 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.” These can be filed offline as well as online by visiting website https://rtionline.gov.in/. According to RTI Act, 2005, the concerned department is under obligation to respond to the RTI application within 30 days and in case of the matters related to life and liberty, the response should be given within 48 hours.
But, what information can be asked from the government? Are there any exceptions on which government is not obligated to provide information? All these questions are very significant and comes in the mind of a person before filing the RTI application.
Scope of Right to Information Act, 2005
Right to Information Act, 2005 applies to whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the RTI application can be filed in accordance with the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009.
Institutions from which the information can be seeked
According to RTI Act, information can be seeked from the “public authority” and as per Section 2(h) of the Act, the “public authority” includes the institutions of self- government established or constituted-
- by or under Constitution
- by any other law made by Parliament
- by any other law made by State Legislature
- by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government.
These include body owned, controlled or substantially financed and NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
Information which can be accessed through Right to Information application
Section 2(j) of RTI Act, 2005 has specified some rights which are included under Right to Information. Following are the same:
- Right to inspection of work, documents and records. The word ‘record’ can be interpreted in accordance with Section 2(i) as follows: Record includes-
- any document, manuscript and file;
- any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
- any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
- any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
- Right to take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
- Right to take certified samples of material
- Right to 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.
Some common examples for which RTI application can be filed are information regarding pending Income Tax return, delayed PF withdrawal, delayed passport, delayed aadhar card, copies of answer sheets, allocation of funds and their expenditure by different departments, etc.
Information which may not be provided through RTI Act[i]
According to Section 8 of Right to Information Act, 2005, there is no obligation to provide the citizens information regarding the following:
- information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
- information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
- information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
- information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- information received in confidence from foreign Government;
- information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
- information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
- cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
- information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information
- if the public interest disclosure outweighs the harm.
Cases related to RTI
P.S.C. marks cannot be disclosed through RTI application
In Union Public Service Commission v. Angesh Kumar & Ors., it was held that except in case where the disclosure of U.P.S.C. marks is required for public interest, the marks cannot be disclosed through RTI application.
Salary details can be disclosed to the wife through RTI
In Smt. Sunita Jain v. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and others, it was held that wife is entitled to know the salary details of her husband and the husband or the husband’s employer cannot deny to reveal the same by taking the escape route of Section 8(j) of RTI Act, 2005.
Aadhar card is not compulsory for filing RTI application
In Vishwas Bhumbarkar v. PIO, Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd. (CIC, 2018), it was held that aadhar card and other identity proof are not mandatory when the application has been filed in a proper manner using name, address and identity.
RTI Act does not prevails over SCR
In The Registrar, Supreme Court v. R.S. Misra[ii], a PG teacher was accused of sexual harassment and was removed from his employment. When he challenged his termination before Supreme Court, his plea was dismissed. He filed RTI application to know the reasons for his dismissal. It was held that one can have access to judicial documents only through the mechanism of SCR( Supreme Court Rules)
RTI cannot be denied by saying that file is missing
In Om Prakash v. GNCTD, it was held that the application for RTI cannot be denied in case the file or documents are missing. It is the duty of concerned public authority recreate the file in these cases.
RTI can be filed to seek information from RBI
In Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal Mistry[iii], it was held that RBI cannot reject RTI application to anyone saying that disclosure of information will break their fiduciary relationship with the banks.
FIR can be disclosed through RTI application
In Jiju Lakose v. State of Kerala, it was held that in case when the matter does not fall under any exception, the RTI application can be filed to get the copy of FIR.
Impact of Amendments in RTI Act on purposes of filing RTI
Two amendments have been made in RTI Act, 2005 which has lead to many questions in the minds of citizens of this country. The important amendments are as follows:
1. According to the new amendment, the tenure of office of Chief and State Information Commissioners will be decided by the Central Government. However, earlier the tenure was 5 years or upto 65 years of age which was in accordance with the Sections 13 and 16 of RTI Act.
2. Secondly, after the amendment, the decision regarding the salaries, allowances and other service rules of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are in the hands of Central Government but before, these were in accordance with Section 13(5) of the RTI Act, 2005 and were in par with the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
It is believed that these amendments which have given discretion to the Central Government create imbalance among Governmental organs and goes against the purposes of filing RTI, which include promoting transparency and government accountability to the citizens of the nation.
Activists and former information commissioners have hit out at the Centre’s move to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, saying it would dilute the Act and curtail the independence of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and other information officers.[iv]
Right to Information Act, 2005 was formed to ensure the citizens the right to information or right to know. It has given them the mode through which they can access the various documents or information within the limited timeframe so that transparency and accountability could be ensured. It is very significant to maintain the purpose with which the RTI Act was established and a free and fair system could prevail in the country.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] Right to Information Act, 2005, Section 8
[ii] W.P.(C) 3530/2011
[iii] AIR 2016 SC 1
[iv] The Hindu, Centre’s decision to bring amendments to RTI Act draws criticism from activists, https://www.thehindu.com/news/states/centres-decision-to-bring-amendments-to-rti-act-draws-criticism-from-activists/article28629973.ece (Last visited August 3, 2019, 9.06 PM)