Right To Information (Amendment) 2019

Right To Information (Amendment) 2019

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”- Lord Acton

Civilians around the globe have always strived hard to acquire power. However, with the centuries the concept of power has been transformed in many aspects. In the case of a politician, influence is power. Also, for business person capital is power. So, it absolutely depends upon in what context it is being used. In the ancient era, when sovereign of a nation used to take over the administration in his control, he was vested with powers to take the human civilization towards their overall growth but in that era, the civilians were not having any say or power to question the government regarding the working of the policies enacted by the sovereigns. In India, with the establishment of Democracy which solely means “the government by the people, for the people and of the people or we can define it as the will of the civilians. This kind of government brought the transparency that the officials sitting on the throne are answerable to the public on any subject matter concerning the public welfare at large. The democratic form of government brought a sense of responsibility in the public that there should be a significant two-sided meaningful democracy founded on the perception of the well-educated public willing to engage vitally in the governance of this nation.

With the arrival of democracy in India, the legislators had a thought that executive authorities are vested with broad powers which could lead to abuse of power the repercussions of which will ultimately be the corruption in the administration. Therefore, the notion of a system of check and balance occurred in the minds of legislators so that there should be a right vested in the public to obtain the information regarding welfare schemes, utilization of tax collected by the government, etc. Therefore, the Right to Information Act, 2005 was enforced.

Evolution

The enactment of the Right of Information Act took almost 80 years. However, the idea of RTI came into existence during British rule or we can say it existed before the enforcement of the Constitution of India. The concept of RTI didn’t get enough backing from the British authorities as during that time Official Secrets Acts 1923 was in operation and according to this Statute, an individual cannot approach or scrutinize or even cross over a banned government site. In other words, the government at that time was completely immune from answerability to the public. But the establishment of the Right to Information Act, 2005 brought a vital reform in the information law. Also, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the RTI Act shall have an overriding effect over the Official Secrets Act as the law regarding information has transformed administration and suppressed notions of secrecy safeguarded under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. The curtailment placed on access to information was mitigated by the enforcement of the Right to Information Act, 2005 Section 24 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 provides that even security and surveillance organizations communicate information on corruption and human rights infringements. Although there is no exclusive Article on Right to Information in India, but it is covered under Chapter III of the Constitution titled Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a). 

Overview of RTI act, 2005

The Right to Information Act, 2005 consists of VI chapters, 2 Schedules, and 31 sections. Chapter 1 is the definition Clause. Section 2 (j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 defines the term “right to information” as of 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;

The term “information” as per section 2(f) includes:

(i)any material in any form,

(ii)including records, documents, memos, e-mails,

(iii)opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders,

(iv) logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form

(v) information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;

The term “Public Authority” comes within section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. This section has a vital resemblance with Article 12 of the Constitution of India which talks about State and the Hon’ble Supreme Court in their many verdicts have emphasized the article to enforce the Right to Information provisions which back the vision of legislation.

Chapter 2 of the act provides for the Right to Information and obligations of public authorities under Section 6 of the act describes that every civilian has an equal opportunity to get access to the information from the concerned public functionaries by filing an application of the Right to Information. Chapter 3 lays down the provisions regarding the Central Information Commission which is a significant administrative authority in this statute. This chapter deals with the Jurisdiction, Constitution of Central Information Commission and limitations as well. Chapter 4 confers about provisions regarding the State Information Commission along with its jurisdiction, constitution, and other relevant clauses. Chapter 5 provides for the duties, powers, and provision for punishments of the Information Commission.

Some of the important provisions of the act are as follows:

As per section 18 of the act which defines that commission has the duty to receive and consider the appeals from the individuals where:

(i) the Public Information has not been appointed;

(ii) refused access to any information requested under this Act;

(iii) has not been given a response to a request for information or access to the information within the time limit specified under this Act;

(iv) required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;

(v) believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act;

(vi)in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.

Section 19 of the act describes that the aggrieved has an option to appeal against the decision to an officer senior in rank to Central Public Information Officer and State Information Public officer. Also, the time prescribed for 1st and 2nd appeal is 30 days and 60 days respectively.

Section 20 confers the provision regarding the penalty which is minimum Rs. 250 and maximum it can extend up to Rs. 25,000.

Chapter 6 lays down miscellaneous provisions regarding the protection of actions executed in good faith, the paramount effect of the act, Bar of Jurisdiction of courts, exclusion provided to 22 surveillance organizations regarding observing and keeping in the records, etc.

The Right To Information (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Right to Information Amendment Act 2019 received the assent of the President of India on 1st August 2019. In this act, amendments of certain sections have been done. Section 13 of the amendment act now specifies that the tenure of the Chief Information Commissioner as well as Information Commissioners will now be fixed by the Central Government. Before this amendment, the provision was that they shall hold the office for a term of five years.

Also, the Central Government will determine the salaries and allowances of the Central Information Public officer and Information Commissioners provided that such determination shall not be to their disadvantage following their appointment.

Section 16 has been amended. It now provides that the tenure of the State Information Commissioner as well as Information Commissioners will be now be fixed by the Central governments.

Section 27 of the original act has also been amended. The amended act provides that new clauses shall be added after clause (c) namely (ca) which confers the term of the Central Information Commissioner under sub-section (1) and (2) of section 13 and regarding the State Information Commissioners as per sub-section (1) and (2) of Section 16.

Another clause which has been added is (cb) which specifies for the addition of sub-section (5) of Section 13 stating the salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and Sub-section (5) of Section 16 regarding State Chief Information Commissioners as well as State Information Commissioners.

Constitutionality of the statute

The Supreme Court of India and High Courts of different states in many cases have upheld the significance of the Right to Information, therefore safeguarding the Right regarding the Freedom of Speech and Expression. This denotes the freedom of the press to dispense truth before society and for this reason, the media must be freely permitted to access the information.

1. In the case of Bennett Coleman v. Union of India (1973 AIR 106), the petitioners challenged the constraints placed by the policy of Government regarding purchase, sale, and utilization of newsprint. The petitioner contended that it directly infringed on their Freedom of Speech and Expression. The Court nullified the order and observed that it violated the petitioner’s right to publish and distribute freely their paper. The Hon’ble Judge also remarked that “It is unarguable that by freedom of media denotes the right of the public to express and print their views.” A bit of freedom of speech and expression also includes the rights of people to read and be well-informed.

2. There was another verdict of the Court which staunchly defined the postulate of administrative transparency in the case of State of U.P. v. Raj Narain (1975 AIR 865) in which the Court observed that in a government formed for the Public in which all the representatives of the public must be accountable for their conduct, there can be but certain which cannot be revealed. The People of this nation are entitled to know every act for the public done by the public officials. The right provided to the public in the form of Freedom of speech, however not absolute, is a determinant that should make one careful when confidentiality is demanded transactions that can at any cost, have no effect on public security. To hide with a veil of confidentiality, the common regime business is not for the benefit of the public. Such confidentiality can hardly be acceptable. The duty of functionaries to elucidate their acts is the vital protection against corruption and maltreatment.

Conclusion

The Right to Information Act has firmly aided in making the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 (1) more dynamic by bestowing a right in hands of the public so that they can question and ascertain the working of various functionaries, schemes, where and how the government is utilizing the public tax. The enactment of such law has brought an immense amount of transparency amid the functioning of the working, therefore reducing the corruption and makes the government accountable for its actions. The main object of this act is to bring the public closer to the administration and promoting democracy and informed public which directly ensures that the public actively contributes to various issues of the society at large.

Frequently Asked Questions

Under which sections amendment has been introduced in the RTI act 2005?

Amendment in Section 13 specifies the tenure of Central Information Commissioners as well as salaries and allowances to be determined by the Central Government.

Necessary amendment in section 16 has been done which now describes the tenure of State Information Commissioners as well as salaries and allowances to be determined by the Central Government.

New clauses (ca), (cb) have been added in section 27 as an amendment in the act.

What were the conditions prevalent before the enactment of the amendment act of RTI and subsequently after the enactment?

Before the amendment Section, 13 of the act stated that the Central Information Commissioner shall hold the office for a time of five years which has been substituted by for a term as determined by the Central Government.

Also, in Section 16 before the amendment specified that State Information Commissioner shall hold the office for a time of five years which has been substituted by for a term as determined by the Central Government.

What was the need to bring the RTI act?

With the arrival of democracy in India, the legislators had a thought that executive authorities are vested with broad powers which could lead to abuse of power the repercussions of which will ultimately be the corruption in the administration. Therefore, the notion of a system of check and balance occurred in the minds of legislators so that there should be a right vested in the public to obtain the information regarding welfare schemes, utilization of tax collected by the government, etc. Therefore, the Right to Information Act, 2005 was enforced.

For filing the application of RTI what is the specific section of the act?

Chapter 2 of the act provides for the Right to Information and obligations of public authorities under Section 6 of the act describes that every civilian has an equal opportunity to get access to the information from the concerned public functionaries by filing an application of RTI.