Salient Features of RTI

The Right to Information Act 2005 of Parliament received the assent of the President of India on 15-6-2005.

Some of the provisions of the Act has come into force with effect from 15.6.2005 and balance provision on 12-10-2005.

Important sections of the Act are:-

Right to Information :-

Section 3:- Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information. It includes right for

(1) Inspect works, documents, records.

(2) Take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.

(3) Take certified samples of material.

(4) Obtain information in form of print outs, diskettes, floppy, take video cassettes or any other electronic mode or through print out.

Definition of Information:
Section 2 (f) “information” means 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;

As per the Act public can seek information from the Public Authorities as contemplated in the Act.

Duties of Public Authority:-

Section 4:-
(1) Every public authority shall-

(a) Maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in the manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated;

(b) publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act-

(i) the particulars of its organization, functions and duties;

(ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees;

(iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability;

(iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions;

(v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions;

(vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control;

(vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof;

(viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public;

(ix) a directory of its officers and employees;

(x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations;

(xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made;

(xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;

(xiii) Particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted by it;

(xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form;

(xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use;

(xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers;

(xvii) such other information as may be prescribed;and thereafter update these publications every year;

(c)publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;

(d)provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons.

(2)it shall be a constant endeavor of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.

(3)For the purposes of sub-section (1) every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public.

(4)All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, available free or at such cost of the medium or the print cost price as may be prescribed.

Explanation:- For the purposes of sub-sections (3) and (4) “disseminated” means making known or communicated the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet or any other means, including inspection of offices of any public authority.
Request for information:-

Section 6 :-

(1)A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to-

(a)the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority;

(b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer as the case may be;

Specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:

Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.

(2) An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

(3) Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information.

(i)which is held by another public authority; or

(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority

the public authority, to which such application is made shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:

Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

Disposal of Request:-

Section 7:- (1)Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under section 6 shall as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9:

Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty eight hours of the receipt of the request.
(2)If the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified under sub-section (1) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be deemed to have refused the request.

(3)Where a decision is taken to provide the information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, shall send an intimation to the person making the request, giving—

(a) the detail of further fees representing the cost of providing the information as determined by him, together with the calculations made to arrive at the amount in accordance with fee prescribed under sub-section (1), requesting him to deposit that fees, and the period intervening between the despatch of the said intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the purpose of calculating the period of thirty days referred to in that sub-section.;

(b) information concerning his or her right with respect to review the decision as to the amount of fees charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the appellate authority, time limit, process and any other forms.

(4)Where access to the record or a part thereof is required to be provided under this Act and the person to whom access is to be provided is sensorial disabled, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall provide assistance to enable access to the information, including providing such assistance as may be appropriate for the inspection.

(5)Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic

format, the applicant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), pay such fee as may be prescribed:

Provided that the fee prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate Government.

(6)Not withstanding anything contained in sub-section (5) the person making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits specified in sub-section (1).

(7)Before taking any decision under sub-section (1) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, shall take into consideration the representation made by a third party under section 11.

(8)Where a request has been rejected under sub-section (1), the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall communicate to the person making the request—

(i) the reasons for such rejection;

(ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred

(iii) the particulars of the appellate authority.

(9)An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.

Exemptions:-
Section 8:-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen—

(a)Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;

(b)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;

(c)Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach or privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

(d)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 the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;

(e)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;

(f)Information received confidence from foreign Government.

(g)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;

(h)Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;

(i)Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;

Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over;

Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;

(j)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 justified the disclosure of such information;

Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament of a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1) a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest.

(3)Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1) any information relating to any occurrence event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section;

Provided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act.

Third party information:-
Section -11:- (1) where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer as the case may be intends to disclose any information or record or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, shall within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public information Officer as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information;

Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.

(2)Where a notice is served by the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under sub-section (1) to a third party in respect of any information or record or part thereof, the third party shall within ten days from the date of receipt of such notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure.

(3)Notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within forty days after receipt of the request under section 6, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub-section (2) make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and given in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.

(4)A notice given under sub-section (3) shall include a statement that the third party to whom the notice is given is entitled to prefer an appeal under section 19 against the decision.

Appeals:-

Section 19:- (1) Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in sub-section (1) or clause (a) of sub-section (3) of section (7), or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority;

Provided that such officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of thirty days if he or she is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(2)Where an appeal is preferred against an order made by a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under section 11 to disclose third party information, the appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within thirty days from the date of the order.

(3)A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission.

Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(4)If the decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, against which an appeal is preferred related to information of a third party, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.

(5)In any appeal proceedings the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, who denied the request.

(6)An appeal under section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be disposed of within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty five days from the filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing.

(7)The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall be binding.

(8)In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to —

(a) require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including—

(i) by providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form;

(ii) by appointing a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be;

(iii) by publishing certain information or categories of information;

(iv) by making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records;

(v) by enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its officials;

(vi) by providing it with an annual report in compliance with clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 4;

(b)require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered;

(c)impose any of the penalties provided under this Act;

(d)reject the application.

(9)The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission as the case may be, shall given notice of its decision, including any right of appeal, to the complainant and the public authority.

(10)The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall decide the appeal in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed.

Penalties:-
Section 20:- (1)Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty five thousand rupees;

Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him;

Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be;

(2) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause and persistently, failed to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall recommend for disciplinary action against the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under the service rules applicable to him.

Exemption:-

Section 24:- (1) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organizations specified in the Second Schedule, being organizations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organizations to that Government;

Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:

Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission, and notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of the request.

(2) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette amend the Schedule by including therein any other intelligence or security organization established by that Government or omitting there from any organization already specified therein and on the publication of such notification, such organization shall be deemed to be included in or, as the case may be, omitted from the Schedule.

(3)Every notification issued under sub-section (2) shall be laid before each House of Parliament.

(4)Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to such intelligence and security organization being organizations established by the State Government, as that Government may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette specify;

Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:

Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the State Information Commission and, notwithstanding anything contained in section 7 such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.

(5) Every notification issued under sub-section (4) shall be laid before the State Legislature.