In my personal opinion, Right to Information Act is the biggest achievement of last decade. I was planning to start a section on Right to Information Act on my blog from quite sometime. As the famous proverb goes “It’s Better Late than Never”. Now you must be wondering what prompted me to become RTI activist. Answer is, when my father retired from Govt Department he was denied his retirement benefits due to frivolous reasons. Thanks to RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, he received all his retirement benefits after 5 years. RTI section on my blog is dedicated to untiring efforts put by my Father for 5 years to fight against the corrupt system using RTI Act. Right to Information Act helped him to restore his professional dignity and in legal fight for restoration of his retirement benefits. Through my blog, i will try to create awareness about RTI Act. Its an attempt from my end to explain all the provisions of Right to information Act to General Public in very simplistic and laymen terms.
RTI Act is most revolutionary act which empowered Indian Citizens to seek information directly from the Government/Public Authorities. The 3 key building blocks of Right to Information Act, 2005 are Responsibility, Transparency and Accountability. Right to Information Act, 2005 is an extension of Freedom of Information Act, 2002 enacted by Parliament of India. Under RTI Act, it is mandatory for Public Authorities to provide information sought by the citizens within prescribed time limit (Within 30 days) else there are provisions of monetary/other penalties.
Under Right to information act only bonafide Citizens of India can seek information from Public Authorities. RTI Act covers Govt of India, All states of Indian Union (excluding state of Jammu & Kashmir) & Union Territories of India. State of Jammu & Kashmir is covered under separate Act called J&K Right to Information Act. Right to Information Act covers 3 pillars of democracy i.e. Executive, Judiciary & Legislature. Unfortunately the 4th Pillar of Indian democracy i.e. Media is out of preview of RTI Act. RTI Act also cover any institution, body or authority either created by Govt notification/order or financed by Govt including Privatized Public Utility Companies like State Discoms etc .
Right to Information Act Exclusions
1. Central Intelligence Agencies like CBI, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, DG of IT (Investigation), Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau & Aviation Research Centre
2. National Security agencies like IB, RAW etc
3. Special Forces/Criminal Agencies like Special Frontier Force, NSG, CISF, ITBP, CRPF, BSF, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID) Andaman and Nicobar, Crime Branch, CID, CID-CB & Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police.
4. Agencies specified by the State Governments through a Notification. It varies from state to state
Only exception to above exclusions are charges of corruption and human rights violations against these agencies. Corruption and Human Rights violations are covered under Right to Information Act. Information related to Human Rights Violation can be given post approval from Central / State Information Commission.
RTI Act Information Exclusions
Under section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 Govt/public authorities are exempted from sharing following information:-
1. Affecting the Sovereignty, Integrity, Security, Strategic interest, Scientific interest or Economic interest of the State of India
2. Affecting relation of State of India with foreign State
3. Forbidden by any court of law in India
4. Breach of privilege of State assembly or Parliament of India
5. Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright, Commercial Confidence or Trade Secrets
6. Available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless disclosure is required in larger public interest
7. Received from foreign Government
8. Risk the life or physical safety of any person
9. Impact or obstruct legal investigation
10. Minutes of Union Cabinet meeting including discussion between Ministers, Secretaries or Govt officers
11. Personal information i.e. breach of Privacy
All the above exemptions are null and void if it is proved beyond doubt by the information seeker that the information should be disclosed in larger public interest.
In my future posts, i will explain more about Right to Information Act, 2005 & how it can become potent tool for common man to bring more accountability & transparency in the system.
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