LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness and Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “A Review of the Right to Information Act ” was held by Adv Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, National Spokesperson, Samajwadi Party.
Why do we need RTI?
He explained the necessity of the RTI Act. The Right to Information (RTI) Act, which gives citizens the fundamental right to access information held by public bodies, is a significant piece of legislation in India. First and foremost, it encourages accountability and transparency in governmental operations. The RTI Act serves as a potent instrument to fight corruption and guarantee that public resources are spent effectively and morally by giving citizens the ability to request and receive information about government policies, decisions, and expenditures.
The RTI Act promotes democracy by allowing informed public involvement, to put it another way. It is crucial for citizens to be educated about governmental actions and choices in a democratic country like India. The act empowers ordinary people to scrutinize the workings of the government and hold public officials accountable for their actions.
Thirdly, it gives people a way to successfully use their rights and privileges. It makes it easier for people to find out about government programs, benefits, and services, ensuring that worthy recipients are not denied their rights because of opaque or corrupt administrative practices.
Additionally, the RTI Act encourages an open culture and a more responsible and responsive government. It guarantees that public servants are accountable to the people they represent and encourages them to act transparently.
In conclusion, the RTI Act is indispensable in India because it upholds democratic principles, fights corruption, facilitates citizen participation, and empowers individuals to access information that is vital for their welfare and the functioning of a vibrant democracy.
Status of RTI Laws on Planet
A legal framework known as the RTI legislation enables citizens of a nation to access information that is held by their respective governments.
The right to information is governed by a unique set of laws, policies, and practices in each nation that has enacted an RTI act. The RTI act’s status and efficacy therefore rely on the nation in issue.
Status of RTI in India
According to the RTI Act, he said, Indian individuals have the legal right to ask public authorities for information, and those authorities are required to deliver the sought information within a set amount of time. By making it easier for citizens to learn about government choices, programs, spending, and more, this act has promoted more openness and accountability.
Constitution Provisions for RTI
The Right to Information Act, 2005 is the main piece of legislation in India that governs the Right to Information (RTI). Even though the right to information is not expressly mentioned as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court of India has declared it to be one under the more expansive definition of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The following are some of the pertinent RTI Act and Indian Constitution clauses that support the right to information:
- Article 19(1)(a): This article of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, which has been interpreted by the courts to include the right to seek and receive information.
- Article 21: While primarily focused on the right to life and personal liberty, the Supreme Court has also interpreted Article 21 to encompass the right to information in certain cases, especially when it concerns the life and personal liberty of an individual.
- Article 15(3): This article empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children. It has been used to support the disclosure of information related to issues affecting women and children.
- Article 16: This article deals with equality of opportunity in public employment. It can be relevant when seeking information related to recruitment and employment policies.
- Article 51A(h): This article is part of the Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens and states that it is the duty of every citizen to develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform, which indirectly promotes the idea of seeking information.
The RTI Act, 2005 is the precise piece of legislation that operationalizes and governs this right, even if the Constitution offers a general framework for it. It outlines the processes and tools that citizens can use to request information from public agencies. The Act has significantly improved Indian individuals’ access to and ability to exercise their right to information.
Why there arises a need for RTI?
The need for the Right to Information (RTI) arises from the fundamental principles of transparency, accountability, and democracy in any society. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring that these principles are upheld.
- RTI empowers citizens by giving them access to information held by public authorities.
- Secondly, RTI serves as a powerful tool to combat corruption and misuse of power.
- Thirdly, RTI fosters transparency in decision-making processes.
The need for the Right to Information arises from its role in empowering citizens, combating corruption, ensuring transparency in government actions, and fostering active citizen participation. It is a cornerstone of accountable and responsive governance in democratic societies.
Right to Information Act,2005
According to him, the Right to Information Act of 2005 in India is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that radically altered how the government operates and how its constituents interact with it. This law, which went into effect on October 12, 2005, gives Indian citizens a legal right to access information stored by public bodies, fostering accountability and openness in government. Through its promotion of transparency, reduction of governmental action’s opacity, and promotion of citizen participation, the RTI Act has been instrumental in building India’s democracy over the years. However, it has also encountered difficulties, such as worries about pointless or vexatious demands and the requirement for protections to protect private data.
RTI and Supreme Court Controversy
He posed the query, “Is the Supreme Court covered by RTI or not?”
He went on to discuss RTI as practised by Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal.
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, a former chief justice of India, held the opinion that the RTI does not apply to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court, according to the Central Information Commission, is protected. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that RTI applies to the SC. Right now, the Supreme Court itself is hearing the case.
What is not open to disclosure: Section 8 of the RTI Act
- Information whose revelation would negatively impact India’s sovereignty and integrity, security, strategic, scientific, or economic interests of the State, relations with foreign states, or the State’s ability to prevent an offence from being incited
- information that has been specifically prohibited from publication by a court of law or other body, or whose revelation may be considered a form of contempt of court;
- information that might violate the State Legislature’s or Parliament’s privilege if disclosed;
- information, such as commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property, the revelation of which might hurt a third party’s ability to compete, unless the responsible authority is convinced that doing so is in the greater good;
- information that a person in a fiduciary relationship has access to unless the competent authority determines that the greater public interest justifies its disclosure;
- information from a foreign government that was received in trust;
- A public body may grant access to material despite any of the aforementioned exemptions if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
Adv. Abdul’s enlightening assessment of the RTI Act in India brought the session to a close.
Acknowledgement: Riya Rajvanshi is a research intern at IMPRI.
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