What is RTI ?
What is Right to Information?
Right to Information is a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19 (1) says that every citizen has freedom of speech and _expression. As early as in 1976, the Supreme Court said in the case of Raj Narain vs State of UP, that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is embedded in article 19 and is a fundamental right. In the same case, Supreme Court further said that India is a democracy. People are the masters. Therefore, the masters have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes. The citizens therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent. These three principles were laid down by the Supreme Court while saying that RTI is a fundamental right of the people of India.
If RTI is a fundamental right, then why do we need an Act?
This is because if you went to any Government Department and told the officer there, “RTI is my fundamental right, and that I am the master of this country. Therefore, please show me all your files”, he would not do that. In all probability, he would throw you out of his room. Therefore, we need a machinery or a process through which we can exercise this fundamental right. Right to Information Act 2005, which became effective on 13th October 2005, provides that machinery. It lays down the process on how to apply for information, where to apply, how much fees etc.
Important provisions of RTI Act 2005:
Right to Information Act 2005 empowers every citizen to
- Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information
- Take copies of any government documents
- Inspect any government documents.
- Inspect any Government works
- Take samples of materials of any Government work.
One or more officers in every Government Department have been designated as Public Information Officers (PIO). These are the nodal officers, who are supposed to accept any application under RTI, collect information from that Department and provide it to the applicant. If the desired information is not provided within 30 days of application or if the information provided is incomplete, the concerned officer becomes liable for a penalty of Rs 250 per day of default upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application. And if wrong information is provided, a penalty upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer.
Read sec 2(f), 2(j), 4(1)(d), 5(1), 5(2), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, briefly explain State IC and CIC, 18, 19, 20, 22 of the RTI Act and discuss in detail. These are the most important sections. But if you wish to use RTI frequently in your life, you must carefully read the entire Act in detail later.
Read all the rules (both Central rules and rules of your state) in detail.
Also, discuss the composition of CIC and State IC
How has RTI Act been used? Some instances:
Before this law was enacted, similar laws existed in 9 states. In the last few years, people have used RTI in several ways.
- Uday is a software engineer. He saw that the Outer Ring Road from IIT flyover to Panchsheel flyover was made last February and it came off within 10 days. He applied for inspection of files, inspection of road and sample of material used in the road. Two days before he was called for inspection, the entire road was relaid.
- Triveni is a matriculate. She was shocked to discover that her ration shopkeeper was siphoning off rations meant for her by making false thumb impressions on cash memos in her name. Actually, she didn’t receive any grains for the last six months. Whenever she would go to the shop, the shop would either be closed or the shopkeeper would say that there was no stock. Triveni is a poor woman, who lives in a slum colony in East Delhi. She holds an Antyodaya card issued by the government to the poorest of the poor. However, it isn’t easy to get ration from a ration shop. In February 2003, Triveni filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for the quantity of ration issued to her as per records and also copies of cash memos purported to have been issued to her. After a month, she received a reply stating that she had been issued 25 Kgs of wheat @ Rs 2 per Kg and 10 Kgs of rice @ Rs 3 per Kg every month in the last three months. The cash memos showed thumb impressions having been made in her name. She is a literate woman. She never puts thumb but always signs. Naturally, the thumb impressions do not belong to her but are fakes. This shows that the shopkeeper had been drawing her ration by faking thumb impressions in her name for the last so many months. Triveni was shocked. But now she was equipped with evidence to proceed against the shopkeeper. Before she could take any action, the shopkeeper came to her house and pleaded with her not to take any action and that he would mend his ways in future. Since then, Triveni is getting right amount of ration at the right price for the last year and a half.
- Nannu is a daily wage earner. He lives in Welcome Mazdoor Colony, another slum habitation in East Delhi. He lost his ration card and applied for a duplicate one in January this year. He made several rounds of the local Food & Civil Supplies office for the next three months. But the clerks and officials would not even look at him, leave alone do his job or bother to tell him the status of his application. Ultimately, he filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for the daily progress made on his application, names of the officials who were supposed to act on his application and what action would be taken against these officials. Within a week of filing application under Right to Information Act, he was visited by an inspector from the Food Department, who informed him that the card had been made and he could collect it from the office. When Nannu went to collect his card next day, he was given a very warm treatment by the Food & Supply Officer (FSO), who is the head of a Circle. The FSO offered him tea and requested him to withdraw his application under Right to Information, since his work had already been done.