Right to Information
Right to Information Act, 2005 came into force on 12th October, 2005.
The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Central Government, State Governments and the Competent Authority as defined in S.2(e) are vested with powers to make rules to carry out the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Any citizen of India has right to seek information from any SPIO or CPIO. However, any body corporate, firm, company, association of individuals, etc cannot seek information under this Act. Only a natural citizen of India has this right.
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 but does not include "file notings".
It includes the right to -
(i) inspect works, documents, records.
(ii) take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
(iii) take certified samples of material.
(iv) obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts. However, the following information is exempted from disclosure.
The application for seeking information can be made in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, to the PIO, PAIO, specifying the particulars of the information sought for. Reason for seeking information are not required to be given. Pay fees as may be prescribed, Rs.10/- at the Central level and Rs.20/- for Gujarat Government, every State Government is authorized to prescribed fees for application. The fees can be paid by way of cash, Indian Postal Order, Banker’s cheque or Demand draft payable to the Accounts Officer of the concerned Public Authority. However, if the individual has a certificate of ‘Below Poverty Line’ issued by the appropriate authority, the information can be sought for free of cost by producing BPL certificate.
(i) 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
(ii) 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;
(iii) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
(iv) 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;
(v) 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;
(vi) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
(vii) 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;
(viii) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
(ix) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
(x) 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;
(xi) Notwithstanding any of the exemptions listed above, a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
If it infringes copyright of any person other than the State.
Public Authority means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted:
• by or under the 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. and includes any-
a. body owned, controlled or substantially financed
b. non-Government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government.
Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like IB, R&AW, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar, The Crime Branch-CID-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police. Agencies specified by the State Governments through a Notification will also be excluded. The exclusion, however, is not absolute and these organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to allegations of human rights valuations could be given but only with the approval of the Central or State Information Commission, as the case may be.
A third party means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a public authority. Third parties have a right to be heard in respect of applications and appeals dealing with information submitted by them to the Government in confidence.
PIOs are officers designated by the public authorities in all administrative units or offices under it to provide information to the citizens requesting for information under the Act. Any officer, whose assistance has been sought by the PIO for the proper discharge of his or her duties, shall render all assistance and for the purpose of contraventions of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a PIO. In Central Government offices in every office one Central Public Information Officer or Central Assistant Public Information Officer (CPIO or CAPIO) are nominated. Similarly in the State Government every office has nominated State Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer (SPIO or SAPIO) Any individual who is citizen of India can seek information from any CPIO or CAPIO or SPIO or SAPIO as the case may be.
PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and where the request cannot be made in writing, to render reasonable assistance to the person to reduce the same in writing.
If the information requested for is held by or its subject matter is closely connected with the function of another public authority, the PIO shall transfer, within 5 days, the request to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately.
PIO may seek the assistance of any other officer for the proper discharge of his/her duties.
PIO, on receipt of a request, shall as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 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.
Where the information requested for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.
If the PIO fails to give decision on the request within the period specified, he shall be deemed to have refused the request. Thereafter, the information would be provided free of cost to the applicant.
Where a request has been rejected, the PIO shall communicate to the requester - (i) the reasons for such rejection, (ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred, and (iii) the particulars of the Appellate Authority.
PIO shall provide information 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.
If allowing partial access, the PIO shall give a notice to the applicant, informing:
a. that only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided;
b. the reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material question of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
c. the name and designation of the person giving the decision;
d. the details of the fees calculated by him or her and the amount of fee which the applicant is required to deposit; and
e. his or her rights with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information, the amount of fee charged or the form of access provided.
Third Party : If information sought has been supplied by third party or is treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO shall give a written notice to the third party within 5 days from the receipt of the request and take its representation into consideration.
Third party must be given a chance to make a representation before the PIO within 10 days from the date of receipt of such notice.
Appeals : First Appeal: First appeal to the officer senior in rank to the PIO in the concerned Public Authority within 30 days from the expiry of the prescribed time limit or from the receipt of the decision (delay may be condoned by the Appellate Authority if sufficient cause is shown).
Second Appeal: Second appeal to the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, within 90 days of the date on which the decision was given or should have been made by the First Appellate Authority. (delay may be condoned by the Commission if sufficient cause is shown).
Third Party appeal against PIO's decision must be filed within 30 days before first Appellate Authority; and, within 90 days of the decision on the first appeal, before the appropriate Information Commission which is the second appellate authority.
Burden of proving that denial of Information was justified lies with the PIO.
First Appeal shall be disposed of within 30 days from the date of its receipt. Period extendable by 15 days if necessary.
CIC : Central Information Commission to be constituted by the Central Government through a Gazette Notification.
Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information
Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
Oath of Office will be administered by the President of India according to the form set out in the First Schedule.
Commission has its Headquarters in Delhi.
Commission exercises its powers without being subjected to directions by any other authority.
SIC : The State Information Commission is constituted by the State Government through a Gazette notification. It has one State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and not more than 10 State Information Commissioners (SIC) to be appointed by the Governor.
Oath of office is administered by the Governor according to the form set out in the First Schedule.
The headquarters of the State Information Commission shall be at such place as the State Government may specify. Other offices may be established in other parts of the State with the approval of the State Government.
The Commission exercises its powers without being subjected to any other authority.
Decision given or order passed by the Central/State Information Commission is subject to appeal before the High Court of judicature or the Honorable Supreme Court of India under Articles 32 and 225 of the Constitution of India. Lower Courts are barred from entertaining suits or applications against any order made under this Act. However, the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
Penalty : Every PIO will be liable for fine of Rs. 250 per day, up to a maximum of Rs. 25,000/-, for -
(i) not accepting an application;
(ii) delaying information release without reasonable cause;
(iii) malafidely denying information;
(iv) knowingly giving incomplete, incorrect, misleading information;
(v) destroying information that has been requested and
(vi) obstructing furnishing of information in any manner.
The Information Commission (IC) at the Centre and the State levels has the power to impose this penalty. The Information Commission can also recommend disciplinary action for violation of the law against an erring PIO.