Right to Information

In international arena, Right to information has warmly welcomed and incorporates in various international human rights document. These document namely- the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the International covenant on civil and political rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. At regional level also the documents like European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the American convention on human and people rights incorporates right to information as a basic human rights. Out of 93 countries in the world that have adopted right to information or freedom of information laws, four are in South Asia. They are – Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

The Indian parliament had enacted the ―Freedom of Information act, 2002 in order to promote transparency and accountability in the administration. The report envisaged by the National common Minimum Programme, the ―Freedom of Information Act, 2002 has repelled and ―Right to Information Bill, 2004 (RTI) was passed by both the houses of parliament on May 2005. The ―Right to Information Act‖ was notified in the Gazette of India on 21st June, 2005. This new law empowers Indian citizens to seek any accessible information from a public authority and makes the government and its functionaries more accountable and responsible.


Some Landmarks in the RTI Journey
  • 1975: Supreme Court of India rules that the people of India have a right to know.
  • 1982: Supreme Court rules that the right to information is a fundamental right.
  • 1985: Intervention application in the Supreme Court by environmental NGOs following the Bhopal gas tragedy, asking for access to information relating to environmental hazards.
  • 1989: Election promise by the new coalition government to bring in a transparency law.
  • 1990: Government falls before the transparency law can be introduced.
  • 1990: Formation of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan and the launching of a movement demanding village level information.
  • 1996: Formation of the National Campaign for People‘s Right to Information (NCPRI). 1996: Draft RTI bill prepared and sent to the government by NCPRI and other groups and movements, with the support of the Press Council of India.
  • 1997: Government refers the draft bill to a committee set up under the Chairmanship of HD Shourie.
  • 1997: The Shourie Committee submits its report to the government.
  • 1999: A cabinet minister allows access to information in his ministry. Order reversed by PM.
  • 2000: Case filed in the Supreme Court demanding the institutionalization of the RTI.
  • 2000: Shourie Committee report referred to a Parliamentary Committee.
  • 2001: Parliamentary Committee gives its recommendations
  • 2002: Supreme Court gives ultimatum to the government regarding the right to information.
  • 2002: Freedom of Information Act passed in both houses of Parliament.
  • 2003: Gets Presidential assent, but is never notified.
  • 2004: National elections announced, and the ―strengthening‖ of the RTI Act included in the manifesto of the Congress Party.
  • May 2004: The Congress Party comes to power as a part of a UPA coalition government, and the UPA formulates a ―minimum common programme‖ which again stresses the RTI.
  • June 2004: Government sets up a National Advisory Council (NAC) under Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
  • August 2004: NCPRI sends a draft bill to the NAC, formulated in consultation with many groups and movements. NAC discusses and forwards a slightly modified version, with its Recommendations to the government. December
  • 2004: RTI Bill introduced in Parliament and immediately referred to a Parliamentary Committee. However, Bill only applicable to the central government.
  • Jan-April 2005: Bill considered by the Parliamentary Committee and the Group of Ministers and a revised Bill, covering the central governments and the state introduced in Parliament.
  • May 2005: The RTI Bill passed by both houses of Parliament.
  • June 2005: RTI Bill gets the assent of the President of India
  • October 2005: The RTI Act comes into force.
The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, Contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed. The Act is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

The Act extends to the whole of India before 5th August 2019 Jammu and Kashmir State excluded from this act but after Article 370 removal it is also included in RTI Act.

Information is any material in any form. It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form. It also includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being in force.

A “public authority” is any authority or body or Institution of self government established or constituted by or under the Constitution; or by any other law made by the Parliament or a State Legislature; or by notification issued or order made by the Central Government or a State Government. The bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Central Government or a State Government and non-Government organizations substantially financed by the Central Government or a State Government also falls within the definition of public authority. The financing of the body or the NGO by the Government may be direct or indirect.

Public authorities have designated some of its officers as Public Information Officer. They are responsible to give information to a person who seeks information under the RTI Act.

These are the officers at sub-divisional level to whom a person can give his RTI application or appeal. These officers send the application or appeal to the Public Information Officer of the public authority or the concerned appellate authority. An Assistant Public Information Officer is not responsible to supply the information. Ø The Assistant Public Information Officers appointed by the Department of Posts in various post offices are working as Assistant Public Information Officers for all the public authorities under the Government of India.

  • Apply in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, to the PIO, specifying the particulars of the information sought for;
  • Reason for seeking information are not required to be given; Ø
  • Pay fees as may be prescribed (if not belonging to the below poverty line category).
  • 30 days from the date of application.
  • 48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person.
  • 5 days shall be added to the above response time, in case the application for the information is given to Assistant Public Information Officer.
  • If the interests of a third party are involved then time limit will be 40 days.
  • Failure to provide information within the specific period is a deemed refusal.
As already pointed out, a citizen has a right to inspect the records of a public authority. For inspection of records, the public authority shall charge no fee for the first hour. But a fee of rupees five (Rs.5/-) for each subsequent hour (or fraction thereof) shall be charged. If the applicant belongs to below poverty line (BPL) category, he is not required to pay any fee. However, he should submit a proof in support of his claim to belong to the below poverty line. The application not accompanied by the prescribed fee of RS.10/-or proof at the applicant’s belonging to below poverty line, as the case may be, shall not be a valid application under the Act.

There is no prescribed format of application for seeking information. The application can be made on plain paper. The application should, however, have the name and complete postal address of the applicant even in cases where the information is sought electronically; the application should contain name and postal address of the applicant. The information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information.

There are some matters where information can be denied, which are given in section 8, and section 9 of RTI. Sections read as under:

Exemption from disclosure of information: Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,
  1. Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of
  2. India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
  3. 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;
  4. Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
  5. 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
  6. Authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
  7. 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;
  8. Information received in confidence from foreign Government;
  9. Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
  10. Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:
  11. 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;
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (22 of 2005) has been enacted by the Parliament and has come into force from 15 June, 2005. This Act provides for right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. All Universities and Colleges established by law made by Parliament or by State Legislature or by notification by the appropriate Government or owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the Government shall come within the meaning of a Public Authority under this Act.

Whereas, some provisions of this act have come into effect immediately on its enactment (that is on 15 June 2005), other provisions shall come into effect on 100 / 120 days of its enactment. All universities and colleges are therefore advised to carefully go through this Act and take necessary steps for implementation of various provisions including proactive disclosure of certain kind of information. Such information shall be made available to the public at large through the website by the concerned university/college.

The full text of the Act and frequently asked questions for implementation of the act are available on the website www.righttoinformation.gov.in

Appellate Authority: Commissioner of Higher Education, Gujarat
Public Information Officer: Principal, Government Arts and Commerce College, Netrang

GACC – Netrang