What is RTI and what are the provisions under RTI Act 2005 in India?

RTI India
Right to Information (RTI) (Official website http://rti.gov.in/) is the foremost administrative reform or we can say that it is a citizen gateway which creates new sets of relationship between citizens & the State by promoting transparency and accountability & responsiveness in the process of Governance. Thus RTI has the potential to transform a representative democracy into participatory democracy.

RTI as a landmark legislation focuses on three fundamental shifts:-

1. From a culture of secrecy to a culture of transparency.
2. From personalized despotism towards accountable government.
3. From unilateral decision making towards participation in governance.

Provisions of RTI Act, 2005

1. Every public authority has to provide to the citizen the right to information within a prescribed time limit. Public Authorities has been ascertained by the Act itself, which includes the office of the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, the Parliament, State Legislatures, the Supreme Court, High Courts, constitutional bodies such as CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), Election Commission etc. It also includes all the departments, Ministries, Boards, PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings), Agencies of Central Government, State Governments & Local Governments.

2. It is mandatory for a public authority to create a separate office called as PIO (Public Information Officer), with an objective to provide information within a prescribed time limit of 30 days. If the information is related to life and personal liberty than the information should be provided within 48 hours.

3. If any citizen is not satisfied with the content, context or subject matter of any information or the information is not provided within a prescribed time limit of 30 days than an appeal can be filled before 1st level Appellate Authority (i.e. the Joint Secretary of the respective department) and against the adjudication of 1st level Appellate Authority the appeal can be filed before the 2nd Appellate Authority (i.e. CIC- Central Information Committee & SIC- State Information Committee).

4. This Act also prescribes/describes the term Information in a comprehensive manner. Information means any material in any form including records, documents, e-mails, opinions, advices, orders, law books, contracts, samples etc.

5. RTI Act also determines some exceptions under which the public authorities have no obligation to give any official information to any citizen. These exceptions are as follows:-

a. Information relating to integrity, security, sovereignty and strategic, economic & scientific interest if the State.
b. Information which has been expressly restricted by any court of law to be published.
c. If disclosure will cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature.
d. Information including IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) & trade secrets.
e. Information received in confidence from any foreign government.
f. Information the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
g. Information related to the process of investigation and prosecution.
h. Cabinet papers including records of deliberation of Council of Ministers and other high level officials.
i. Personal information, disclosure of which has no relationship with nay public activity or interest.

Recently a study was performed by PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers - a multinational professional services firm) to identify issues and constraints in the implementation of the Act. According to the study main emphasis needed to be given to the Supply Side Issues & the Demand Side Issues. The Supply Side Issues listed by PWC were as follows:-

1. Purpose Clause: Under RTI Act it is being provided that without any purpose, qualification or objective a citizen can take any information from a public authority. Apart from this free of cost information is provided to persons who are Below Poverty Line. According to PWC survey because of both these clauses government spend approximately Rs 10,000 in the disposal of one case and on an average Rs 25,000 petitions are filed in different PIOs working at different levels of government.

2. 30 Days Clause: This clause does not include administrative exceptions such as public holidays, staff leave and administrative assignments like election, census, disaster management etc. Situation becomes much more impractical when information is as old as 20 years.

3. Appeal & Complaint Clause: It has been observed that citizen groups & media are directly filing complaints in spite of appeal, it leads to extraneous pressure on public functionaries and affect the motivation of public servant and motive of this Act.

4. Any PIO Clause: Under this clause a citizen can ask any information from any PIO whether the PIO is possessor of that information or not. In the disposal of such cases lots of time and energy is wasted due to administrative hierarchy. Situations becomes much more difficult when 30 Days Clause is enforced with Any PIO Clause.

The Demand Side Issues can be listed as follows:-

1. Language Clause: Under this clause the PIO should provide information to the appellant in administrative language. It should be noted that administrative language has its own terminology, abbreviations and complexity which is not possible for a citizen to understand.

2. Designation Clause: It has been observed that the designation of the PIO and public authority of similar types of departments is different in different States. Apart from this the process by which a petition can be filed and the procedure by which adjudication is done also differ in different States.

3. Issues related to Legal & Political Rights: In our education system there is no separate curriculum which make people aware about their legal and political rights. Awareness of rights such as Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act, Consumer Protection Act, Domestic Violence Act and RTI Act is required for every citizen to make the administration or government more accountable and responsible.

In India we don't have any academic framework to make people aware of the government's initiatives.

Buy Handbook on the Right to Information Act > Handbook-Right-Information-Act-2005

The Right to Information Act, 2005, is now available in a digitally readable format on your Android devices >> Go to play.google.com to download

More useful resources

Analysing the Right to Information Act in India
Salient Features of the Right to Information Act, 2005
Guide For the Information Seekers Under the Right to Information Act, 2005
Application form for seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005
RBI provides best data for citizens under RTI act for Indian economy.

To know more about RTI act visit the official website http://rti.gov.in/rti-act.pdf

Go Back to India Govt and Politics for more.

Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice