Right to Information

This article is authored by Nidhi Bajaj, of Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab. The article discusses important provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 including objectives of the Act, right to information and obligations of public authorities, constitution of Information Commissions, powers and functions of Information Commissions, appeal and penalties etc.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Every citizen of India has a right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. This right does not only cover the communication of information but also the receipt of information since without adequate information, a person cannot form an informed opinion. Thus, the right to know and seek information is an integral part of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 19(1)(a). The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also held that the right of the citizens to know, and to receive information regarding matters of public concern is a fundamental right flowing from Article 19(1)(a). 

The right of a citizen to question the government on its various policies and measures forms the very essence of a democracy. In order to exercise this right and to hold the government accountable for its actions, the people must have access to the information regarding the affairs of the government. This is what RTI does. It informs the citizen regarding the affairs of the government and thereby ensures the active participation of a citizen in the working of the democracy at all times and not just once during voting. RTI is an index to measure the growth and development of a country. 

In this article, the author has discussed the important provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 which sets out the practical regime for implementation of right to information in India. 

Right to Information Act, 2005: brief background 

The first central legislation dealing with the right to information in India, namely, the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 was passed on December 4, 2002, but was not notified. In 2004, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government appointed a National Advisory Council (NAC) which had recommended some changes in the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.

The amended act known as “The Right to Information Act, 2005” was passed on 11th May 2005 and 12th May 2005 by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively. The President of India gave his assent to the Act on 15th June 2005 and it came into force on 12th October 2005.

Objectives of the Right to Information Act, 2005

The objectives of the RTI Act, 2005 are as follows:

  1. To provide for a practical framework that allows the citizens to access the information under the control of public authorities.
  2. To promote transparency and accountability in the working of governments and their instrumentalities.
  3. To provide for the constitution of Information Commissions at state and national level for discharging the functions and exercising the powers under the Act.
  4. To develop an informed citizenry.
  5. To contain corruption.
  6. To lay down the exemptions to disclosure of information when such disclosure is likely to conflict with other public interests and to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal.

Important definitions in the Right to Information Act, 2005 : Section 2

Section 2 of the RTI act, 2005 defines various important terms, some of which are dealt with as follows:

Appropriate Government [Section 2(a)]

Section 2(a) of the Act provides for the definition of “appropriate government”. Appropriate government means the government in relation to a public authority dealing with the right to information. Such authority is established, constituted, owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Central Government, union territory administration or the State Governments. 

Thus, in case of a public authority associated with the central government/union territory administration in the aforesaid manner, the appropriate government is the ‘Central Government’. Whereas, in the case of a public authority associated with the state government in the ways mentioned above, the appropriate government is the ‘State Government’.

Competent authority [Section 2(e)]

Section 2(e) of the Act provides for ‘competent authority’. Competent authority is the authority in charge of the autonomous institutions functioning under the provisions of the Constitution. Such authority has the ultimate responsibility for the enforcement of the RTI Act in those institutions. For example, in the case of the Supreme Court of India, the Chief Justice of India is the competent authority. Competent authority means:

  1. Speaker of Lok Sabha
  2. Chairman of Rajya Sabha
  3. Speaker of Legislative Assembly of a State/UT
  4. Chairman of Legislative Council of a State
  5. Chief Justice of India in the case of the Supreme Court
  6. Chief Justice of a High Court
  7. President or the Governor, as the case may be, in the case of other authorities established or constituted by or under the Constitution
  8. Administrator appointed under Article 239 of the Constitution

Information [Section 2(f)]

Section 2(f)  provides for the kinds of information which can be accessed under the right to information. Information means any material in any form including:

  1. Records (written details including any map, drawing etc. of any act, policy or decision pertaining to a public authority)
  2. Documents (a part of a record or an independent document or a piece of information containing details on a particular subject or decision of public authority)
  3. Memos (these may be in the form of a correspondence or a note on a particular subject)
  4. E-mails
  5. Opinions (opinions of a government department or government officials conveyed in official dealings forming part of official record)
  6. Advices (advices on official matters forming part of official record)
  7. Press releases (press briefings or press notes on official matters when released in official capacity)
  8. Circulars (circulars notifying a particular decision or policy of government/public authority circulated in official capacity)
  9. Orders (any order issued by public authority in official capacity)
  10. Logbooks (documents containing details, measurements, data of a particular project of public authority)
  11. Contracts (official contracts entered into by the public authorities and the details thereof)
  12. Reports (reports regarding official matters including test reports, inquiry reports, expert reports on a particular subject)
  13. Papers (papers regarding official proceedings)
  14. Samples (samples from materials to be purchased/consumed in connection with government affairs)
  15. Models (models of programmes and projects to be undertaken)
  16. Data material held in any electronic form (data stored in computer, pen drives, CDs)
  17. Information relating to any private body that a public authority can obtain under any other law for the time being in force.

Public authority [Section 2(h)]

Section 2(h) defines “public authority”. Public authority is an authority or body or institution of self-government which is directly or indirectly related to the government. Such authority may be related to the government in any of the following ways:

  1. It is established or constituted by or under the Constitution
  2. It is created by an Act of Parliament
  3. It is created by an Act of State Legislature
  4. It is established or constituted by a notification issued or order made by the appropriate government

The public authority also includes:

  1. any body owned, controlled, or substantially financed;
  2. any NGO substantially financed, 

directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. 

Record [Section 2(i)]

As provided under Section 2(i) of the Act, a record may include any:

  1. Document: It may refer to any piece of information or a set of papers containing information on a particular subject.

Manuscript: It may denote the original form of a handwritten document, map or drawing.

File: Collection of papers or connected documents on a particular subject.

  1. Electronic documents in the form of microfilm, microfiche, and facsimile copy.
  2. Electronic documents reproduced in the form of images. 
  3. Any other material produced or generated through a computer or any other device.

Right to information [Section 2(j)]

Section 2(j) defines “right to information”. It means the right to obtain the information accessible under the RTI Act which is held by or is under the control of any public authority. Such right includes:

Right of inspection 

This refers to the right to look and scrutinise closely the documents, works and records. Here, no document or its copy is obtained in any form and the information is simply seen and scrutinised.

Right of taking notes, extracts etc. 

Taking notes or extracts means noting down certain information from the documents. Here, important information is noted down from the documents and even original extracts from the documents can also be copied. The right also permits the taking of certified copies of documents or records.

Right to take certified samples of material 

A citizen has a right to obtain certified samples of material purchased or used by the government.

Right to obtain information in electronic mode 

Where the information sought is stored in a computer or any other electronic device, the RTI Act permits the citizen to obtain information in electronic form such as in the form of tapes, video cassettes, floppies, diskettes etc or in the form of printouts as well.

Salient features of the Right to Information Act, 2005

Right to Information and Obligations of public authorities: Chapter II

Section 3 of the Act provides for the right of the citizens to obtain information subject to the provisions of the Act.

Obligations of public authorities: Section 4

Section 4(1) lists the following obligations of public authorities:

  1. Maintenance of records: Every public authority is required to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed. In order to facilitate access to its records, the public authority shall ensure that all the records that are appropriate for computerisation are computerised and connected through a network across the country on various systems within a reasonable time frame and according to resource availability.
  2. Publication of certain matters: Every public authority is required to publish certain particulars within 120 days of the enactment of the Act, some of which are enumerated below:
  • the particulars of its organisation, functions, and duties;
  • the powers and duties of its officers and employees;
  • the procedure followed in the decision-making process, including channels of supervision and accountability;
  • where any arrangement exists for public representation or public consultation  in matter of policy formulation or implementation of policy of public authority, the particulars of such arrangement;
  • Employee directory of such public authority
  • Monthly salary given to employees and officers
  • Details of budget allocated to its agencies
  • Details regarding manner of execution of subsidy programmes
  • Details regarding information held in electronic form
  • Particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information
  • Names  and designations of the Public Information Officers etc.
  1. While formulating key policies or decisions that affect the public, a public authority must publish all the relevant facts regarding the same. 
  2. Every public authority shall provide reasons for its judicial or administrative decisions to those affected by it.

Suo-moto furnishing of information: Section 4(2)

Section 4(2) provides for the obligation of the public authority to make efforts for providing information suo moto to the public at regular intervals using various modes of communication. 

Dissemination of information: Section 4(3) and 4(4)

Section 4(3) provides for wide dissemination of information in a manner that is easily accessible to the public.

Section 4(4) provides that the dissemination of information has to be done after considering the following factors:

  1. cost-effectiveness, 
  2. local language of an area, and 
  3. the most effective method of communication in a particular local area. 

Designation of Public Information Officers: Section 5

  • Section 5(1) provides for the designation of Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and State Public Information Officers (SPIOs) by every public authority within 100 days from the enactment of this Act. Such officers have a duty to provide information requested under the Act.
  • Section 5(2) provides for the designation of Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer at each sub-divisional level or other sub-district level. Such officers shall receive applications for information or appeals under the Act for forwarding the same to the CPIO/SPIO or the senior officer specified under Section 19(1) or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be.

Duty/Function of public information officers

  • Section 5(3) provides for the following duties of CPIOs and SPIOs:
  1. To deal with requests from the person seeking information, and
  2. To provide reasonable assistance to the person asking for information.

Request for obtaining information: Section 6

Manner of making a request for information

Section 6(1) provides for the manner of making a request by a person who desires to obtain any information under this Act.

  • Manner of making requests: In writing or through electronic means.
  • Language: English/Hindi/official language of the area in which the application is being made.
  • Any fee: Such application shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee.
  • To whom application is made: To the CPIO/SPIO of the concerned public authority or to the Central Assistant Public Information Officer/State Assistant Public Information Officer.
  • Contents of application: Particulars of information sought by the applicant.

When the request cannot be made in writing 

The proviso to Section 6(1) deals with  a case where the applicant has made an oral request for information. It states that where a person cannot make a written request, the CPIO/SPIO shall assist such person to reduce his request in writing. 

Applicant need not give his details

As per Section 6(2), a person seeking information under the Act need not disclose any reason for such request or his personal details except such information that might be required for contacting him.

When the information requested is held by another public authority, etc.

Section 6(3) deals with the case where an application is made to a public authority requesting information that is held by another public authority, or the subject matter of which is more closely related with the functions of another public authority. In this case, the public authority to whom the application is filed must transfer the application, or the concerned portion of it, to that other public authority and notify the applicant of the transfer as soon as possible. The section provides for a maximum of five days for transferring the application. 

Disposal of request: Section 7

Period within which information to be furnished

Section 7(1) provides for expeditious disposal of the request for information by the CPIO/SPIO. The CPIO/SPIO shall within thirty days of receiving the request, either:

  1. Accept the request which means providing information after the fee prescribed has been paid, or 
  2. Reject the request for reasons as specified under Section 8 and Section 9

Thus, a 30 day period is provided for responding to the request.

An additional period of five days is allowed in computing the period for response in the following cases:

  1. When the application is received through the Assistant Public Information Officer.
  2. When the application is received by way of transfer.

Also, the information sought has to be provided within 48 hours of receiving the request where the said information concerns the life and liberty of a person.

Failure to decide within 30 days deemed as a refusal

Section 7(2) provides that the failure of the CPIO/SPIO to decide on the request for information within the prescribed period shall be deemed as a refusal of the request.

Decision regarding fee

Section 7(3) deals with the case where the applicant is required to pay a further/additional fee. The sub-section states that where a decision is made to provide information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, the CPIO/SPIO shall send an intimation regarding the same to the person making the request. Such intimation must provide to the applicant:-

  1. Information regarding the details of such additional fees as determined by the CPIO/SPIO along with the calculations made to arrive at such an amount. The intimation shall also request the applicant to pay such additional fee;
  2. Information regarding the right of the applicant to ask for a review of the decision regarding fees or form of access. The details of the appellate authority, the time limit, the process of review, etc. are also required to be intimated to the applicant.

Access to information

  • Section 7(4):  The CPIO/SPIO shall provide assistance to enable access to the information where the person seeking such access is sensorily disabled. 
  • Section 7(5): The applicant is required to pay such fee as may be prescribed for access to information in the printed or electronic format. According to the proviso attached to this sub-section, the fee charged under the Act must be reasonable. Also, no fee can be charged from those living below the poverty line.
  • Section 7(6): Failure of the public authority to provide the information within the prescribed time limit entitles the applicant for access to such information free of any charge.
  • Section 7(7): Before making a decision regarding furnishing of information or rejection of a request, the CPIO/SPIO has to consider the representation made by a third party under Section 11.

Rejection of request under sub-section (1)

Section 7(8) deals with the rejection of requests for information. In case, the CPIO/SPIO rejects a request, he is required to communicate the following particulars to the applicant:

  1. reasons for such rejection;
  2. the period within which he can file an appeal against the rejection;
  3. the details of the appellate authority.

Form of information

Section 7(9) provides that generally, the information asked for under the Act has to be provided in the form in which it is sought, except where:

  1. It would lead to disproportionate diversion of the resources of the public authority, or
  2. It would prejudice the safety or preservation of the record in question.

Exemption from disclosure of information: Section 8

Section 8(1) lists the categories/types of information which is exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. There is no obligation to disclose such information to any citizen. The categories of information so exempted include:

  1. 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;
  2. Information, publication of which has been expressly forbidden by Court or tribunal;
  3. Information, disclosure of which may amount to contempt of court; 
  4. Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of parliamentary privilege
  5. Information including trade secrets, commercial confidence or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would jeopardise a third party’s competitive position. Such information can be furnished if the competent authority determines that it is necessary to disclose such information in the public interest.
  6. Information accessible to a person in his fiduciary relationship. Such information can be furnished if the competent authority determines that it is necessary to disclose such information in the public interest.
  7. Information received in confidence from foreign government;
  8. 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;
  9. the information that would obstruct the process of investigating, apprehending, or prosecuting offenders etc. 

Regardless of anything in the Official Secrets Act of 1923 or the permissible exclusions under sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to protected interests.

Grounds for rejection to access in certain cases: Section 9

Section 9 provides that a CPIO/SPIO may reject a request for information where it would lead to infringement of copyright owned by a person other than the State.

Severability: Section 10

Section 10 provides that if a request for access to information is denied because the disclosure of the information is prohibited by the Act, access may be granted to that part of the record:

  1. that does not contain any exempt information, and
  2. can be reasonably separated from any part that contains exempt information.

Thus, Section 10 deals with the furnishing of information after severance of non-exempt information from the information that is exempted. 

Section 10(2) states that when access is granted to a part of a record under sub-section (1), then the CPIO/SPIO shall give notice to the applicant, informing him:

  1. that only a part of the record requested is being provided after severing the information that is exempted from disclosure;
  2. of the reasons for the decision;
  3. name and designation of the person who made the decision;
  4. the details of the fees required to be paid by the applicant; and
  5. of his or her right to file for a review of the decision of non-disclosure or regarding fee or the form of access provided and the particulars of the authority competent to review.

Third-party information: Section 11

Section 11 contains the provision regarding the disclosure of information related to a third party. 

  • Under Section 11(1), a third party has to be notified in writing when the CPIO/SPIO intends to disclose:
  1. any information which relates to, or has been supplied by the third party, and
  2. such information is treated as confidential by that third party.

Such written notice has to be given within five days of the receipt of the request. The notice shall:

  1. inform the third party of such request and
  2. inform the third party of the fact that the CPIO/SPIO intends to disclose such information and 
  3. invite the third party to make a submission as to whether the information should be disclosed. 

Such submission shall be taken into consideration while taking a decision regarding the disclosure of information.

The proviso to Section 11(1) states that such disclosure may be permitted if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such a third party. However, the proviso shall not be applicable to trade or commercial secrets protected by law.

  • Section 11(2) provides that the third party shall be given an opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure within 10 days from the date of receipt of notice under sub-section (1).
  • According to Section 11(3), the CPIO/SPIO has to make a decision regarding disclosure within 40 days of the receipt of a request under Section 6, if the third party has been given an opportunity of making representation under the previous sub-section. The notice of the decision has to be given to the third party in writing by the CPIO/SPIO.
  • The notice given under Section 11(3) must state that the third party is entitled to file an appeal against the decision.

Central Information Commission and State Information Commission: Chapters III and IV

Information Commissions constituted under the RTI Act are the supreme authority and the highest decision-making body under the Act. Information Commissions have been constituted at both the central and state level, known as Central Information Commission(CIC) and State Information Commission(SIC) respectively.

Sections 12-14 of the Act contain the provisions regarding the constitution, membership, etc. of the Central Information Commission, whereas, Sections 15-17 deal with the provisions relating to the State Information Commission.

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION (CIC)STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION (SIC)
Constitution SECTION 12
Constituted by: Central Government.
Membership: CIC consists of the following members:-Chief Information CommissionerCentral Information Commissioners(Maximum no. of Central Information Commissioners is 10.)
Who shall appoint the members of Commission: President on the recommendation of a Committee consisting of:Prime Minister(Chairperson of the Committee)Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha; andA Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
Role and responsibilities of the Chief Information Commissioner:Power of general superintendence and direction and management of the affairs of CIC. The Chief Information Commissioner shall be assisted by the Information Commissioners.He has the authority to exercise all the powers and do all acts which may be exercised or done by the CIC.
Qualification of members: The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science, technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and governance.
Prohibition on membership: The Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners shall not: be an MP or MLA, orhold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or engage in any business or profession.
Headquarters: The headquarters of CIC shall be in Delhi. However, the CIC may establish offices at other places in India after taking approval from the Central Government.
SECTION 15
Constituted by: State Government.
Membership: SIC consists of the following members:-State Chief Information CommissionerState Information Commissioners (Maximum no. of State Information Commissioners is 10.)
Who appoints the members of the Commission: Governor on the recommendation of a Committee consisting of the following members:Chief Minister(Chairperson of the Committee)Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly; andA Cabinet Minister nominated by the Chief Minister.
Role and responsibilities of the State Chief Information Commissioner:Power of general superintendence and direction and management of the affairs of SIC.The State Chief Information Commissioner shall be assisted by the Information Commissioners.He has the authority to exercise all the powers and do all acts which may be exercised or done by the SIC.
Qualification of members: The State Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science, technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and governance.
Prohibition on membership: The State Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners shall not: be an MP or MLA, orhold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or engage in any business or profession.
Headquarters: The headquarters of SIC shall be at such place in the State as specified by the State Government by way of notification in the Official Gazette. However, the SIC may establish its office at another place in the State with the previous approval of the State Government.
Term of Office and conditions of service SECTION 13
Term of office of Chief Information Commissioner: As prescribed by the Central Government. Whether the Chief Information Commissioner is eligible for reappointment: No Chief Information Commissioner shall not hold office after attaining the age of 65 years. Term of office of Information Commissioners: As prescribed by the Central Government or till he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Whether the Information Commissioner can be reappointed as an Information Commissioner: No. However, an Information Commissioner may be appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner, after vacation from his office. 
Tenure of the Information Commissioner appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner: Maximum 5 years in aggregate as the Information Commissioner and the Chief Information Commissioner. 
Resignation of members of Commission: The Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioner(s) may resign from the office by writing under his hand addressed to the President. Section 13(6) provides for assistance to the Chief Information Officer and the Information Officers by way of officials required by them for the efficient performance of functions entrusted to them under the Act.
SECTION 16
Term of office of State Chief Information Commissioner: As prescribed by the Central Government.
Whether the State Chief Information Commissioner is eligible for reappointment: No. No State Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office after he has attained the age of 65 years.
Term of office of State Information Commissioners: As prescribed by Central Government or till he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Whether a State Information Commissioner can be reappointed as a State Information Commissioner: No. However, he is eligible for being appointed as the State Chief Information Commissioner, after vacation from his office. 
Tenure of the Information Commissioner appointed as the State Chief Information Commissioner: Maximum 5 years in aggregate as the State Information Commissioner and the State Chief Information Commissioner.
Resignation of members of Commission: The State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioner(s) may resign from the office by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor. Section 16(6) provides for assistance to the State Chief Information Officer and the State Information Officers by way of officials required by them for the efficient performance of functions entrusted to them under the Act.
Removal of members of CommissionSECTION 14 
The power to order the removal from office of the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner vests with the President under Section 14(1).
Grounds for removal under Section 14(1): Proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
Manner/process of removal: The President sends a reference to the Supreme Court for inquiry into the alleged misconduct. If after such inquiry, the Supreme Court comes to the conclusion that the charges of misbehaviour are proved and recommends the removal of such a member in its report, the President shall remove such member. Interim suspension: The President has the power to: suspend such member in respect of whom reference is made to Supreme Courtprohibit such aforesaid member from attending the office during enquiry, until the President has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.
Disqualifications: Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the President of India has the power to remove the Chief Information Commissioner or the Information Commissioner if he is guilty of any of the following acts: Declaration of insolvency Conviction for an offence involving moral turpitudeEngagement in paid employment outside official dutiesInfirmity of mind or bodyAcquisition of such financial or other interest which might affect prejudicely his functions as such member
SECTION 17
The power to order the removal from office of the State Chief Information Commissioner or any State Information Commissioner vests with the Governor under Section 17(1).
Grounds for removal under Section 17(1): Proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
Manner/process of removal: The Governor sends a reference to the Supreme Court for inquiry into the alleged misconduct. If after such inquiry, the Supreme Court comes to the conclusion that the charges of misbehaviour are proved and recommends the removal of such a member in its report, the Governor shall remove such member. Interim suspension: The Governor has the power: to suspend such member in respect of whom reference is made to Supreme Court to prohibit such aforesaid member from attending the office during enquiry, until the Governor has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.
Disqualifications: Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the Governor has the power to remove the State Chief Information Commissioner or the Information Commissioner if he is guilty of any of the following acts: Declaration of insolvency Conviction for an offence involving moral turpitudeEngagement in paid employment outside official dutiesInfirmity of mind or bodyAcquisition of such financial or other interest which might affect prejudicely his functions as such member 

Powers and functions of the Information Commissions, appeal and penalties: Chapter V

Powers and functions of Commission: Section 18

Section 18(1) provides for the duty of the CIC/SIC to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person on the following grounds:

  1. Where a person has been unable to submit a request to the CPIO/SPIO:
  • Owing to the non-appointment of CPIO/SPIO, or 
  • Due to the refusal of the Central Assistant PIO or the State Assistant PIO to accept his or her application for information or appeal under the Act for forwarding the same to the CPIO/SPIO, as the case may be.
  1. Refusal of access to any information requested under the Act.
  2. Violation of time limit for providing information under the Act.
  3. Where the fee required to be paid is considered unreasonable.
  4. Providing incomplete, false, or misleading information.
  5. With regard to other matters relating to obtaining access to records under the Act.

Power to inquire [Section 18(2)]

Section 18(2) provides for the power of the Commission to initiate an inquiry. The Commission is not bound to inquire into every complaint received by it. The CIC/SIC may initiate an inquiry if it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the same.

Powers of the Civil Court to vest in the Commission [Section 18(3)]

Section 18(3) states that while inquiring into any matter under Section 18, the CIC/SIC shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Those powers are: 

  1. Power to summon and enforce the attendance of persons and compel them  to give evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things;
  2. Power of discovery and inspection;
  3. Power to receive evidence on affidavit;
  4. Power of requisition of public record etc.;
  5. Power to issue summons for examination of witnesses or documents; and
  6. Any other matter which may be prescribed.

Power to summon record [Section 18(4)]

The CIC/SIC has the power to summon and examine any record to which this Act applies and which is under the control of any public authority. Also, such records cannot be withheld from the Commission on any grounds.

Appeal: Section 19

First Appeal under Section 19(1)

  • Grounds of filing the appeal:
  1. The applicant has not received the decision on his application within the time specified under Section 7(1) or 7(3)(a) of the Act, or
  2. The applicant is aggrieved by the decision of the CPIO/SPIO.
  • Period for filing of an appeal and condonation the delay:

The appeal has to be filed within 30 days from the expiry of the response period or the receipt of the decision of CPIO/SPIO. An appeal may be admitted after the expiry of 30 days if the First Appellate Authority is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by a sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

  • To whom appeal filed:

The appeal is to be filed to such officer who is senior in rank to the CPIO/SPIO in each public authority (First Appellate Authority).

Appeal by a third party [Section 19(2)]

This sub-section deals with the filing of appeals by the third party who has suffered an adverse order under Section 11. A third party aggrieved by the decision of the CPIO/SPIO to disclose third party information under Section 11 may prefer an appeal within 30 days from the date of the order to the first appellate authority. 

Second appeal [Section 19(3)]

  • Appeal to Commission against the decision of the first appellate authority: A Second appeal shall lie to the CIC/SIC against the decision of the first appellate authority made under Section 19(1).
  • Period for filing an appeal: The Second appeal has to be filed within 90 days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was received. An appeal may be admitted after the expiry of 30 days if the CIC/SIC is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by a sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

Opportunity of hearing to a third party[Section 19(4)]

Where the order against which the appeal has been filed pertains to information of a third party, the concerned Commission shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.

Onus to justify denial on the PIO

Section 19(5), provides that burden to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the CPIO/SPIO who denied the request.

Time limit for disposing of the appeal [Section 19(6)]

The appeal under Section 19(1) or 19(2) has to be disposed of within 30 days of the receipt of the appeal. However, in exceptional circumstances, an extended period of a total of 45 days from the date of filing may be provided for reasons to be recorded in writing. 

Supremacy of the Commission

Section 19(7) states that the decision of the CIC/SIC shall be binding.

Orders to be passed by the Commission

Section 19(8) provides for the power of the CIC/SIC to give the following orders in its decision:

  1. Requiring the public authority to take steps for complying with the provisions of the Act, including:-
  • Providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form
  • Appointing PIOs
  • Publishing certain information or categories of information
  • To make required changes to its practices regarding maintenance, management, and destruction of records
  • Enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its officials
  • To submit an annual report to the Commission in compliance with Section 4(1)(b)
  1. Require the public authority to award compensation to the complainant for any loss suffered by him
  2. Impose any of the penalties provided under the Act
  3. Reject the application

Notice [Section 19(9)]

The CIC/SIC shall give notice of its decision, including any right of appeal, to the complainant and the public authority.

Penalties: Section 20

While deciding a complaint or an appeal under the Act, the CIC/SIC has the power to impose penalties on the CPIO/SPIO for the deliberate violation of the provisions of the Act. Before any decision regarding imposition of penalty is taken, the concerned CPIO/SPIO shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard. The burden to prove that he acted in a reasonable and diligent manner lies on the concerned CPIO/SPIO only.

GROUNDS PENALTY IMPOSED
SECTION 20(1)
Refusal to receive an application for information without reasonable cause.
Information not furnished within the time limit prescribed under Section 7(1).
Denied the request for information malafidely.
Knowingly gave incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information.
Destroyed the information requested by the applicant.
Obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information
At the rate of Rs. 250 per day till the application is received or information is furnished. 
However, the total amount of penalty shall not exceed Rs. 25,000.
SECTION 20(2) deals with the persistent default/failure of the CPIO/SPIO.
Persistent default or failure of the CPIO/SPIO to receive an application for information or in providing information without any reasonable cause or malafidely denying the request for information or knowingly furnishing false, incomplete, or misleading information or destroying the information requested. 
The commission shall recommend that disciplinary action be taken against the concerned CPIO/SPIO under the service rules applicable to him.

Conclusion

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is a significant statutory measure for realisation of the citizen’s right to access of information. The Act mandates timely response to the citizen’s requests for government information. Citizens can file RTI applications for the public authorities under the Central Government by visiting https://rtionline.gov.in./ which is an initiative of the Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension. With regard to public authorities under the State Governments, an RTI application can be filed by visiting the RTI portal/website of the particular state.

References


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