Avail 20% discount on updated CA lectures for Dec 21 .Use Code RESULT20 !! Call : 088803-20003

ICICI

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More


Introduction

Many frauds or corrupt practices or swindling of public money have come to public notice because of the effective use of Right to information Act by some of the social activists. It is felt that sharing of knowledge of this act will be in the interests of every citizens and society in general. An attempt is made to convey in a simple manner the rights available under the Act and procedure to be followed to seek information. Proper use of the rights will instill a fear in the minds of public officers who misuse their position and indulge in corruption

ACT and its applicability

The Right to information Act or RTI Act came into force on 15th June 2005 and some of the sections came into force at a later date i.e 12th October 2005 and the act is applicable to all states except state of Jammu and Kashmir

Scheme of the Act:

The whole act is divided into 6 chapters. Chapter-1 deals with definitions. Chapter II deals with rights of citizens and obligations of public authorities. Chapter III and IV cover the constitution of Chief information commission and state information commission, Chapter V deals with powers and functions of the Information Commissions, appeals and penalties. Final Chapter VI deals with miscellaneous matters

Important definitions

To understand the provisions of the Act and use it very effectively, we must understand the definitions more particularly the definition of words   “right”, “information” and “public authority” and other provisions in general.

Information

The definition of information helps us to understand what information we can seek from a public authority. The definition covers almost all forms of information. As per section 2(f), information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

Right

Another important definition is the word “right” u/s 2 (j).The word right has been defined to include a right to inspect works, documents, records, to take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records, take samples of material and obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, taped, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode through printouts

Record

Record includes any document, file, manuscript, microfilm, facsimile copy of document, any material produced by computer {Sec2(i)}

 

Public authority

It is very important to note that this right under the Act can be used only in any body or institution created by any law of the Parliament, State legislature, owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government. It covers even non-Government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government. Such right is not available against any private bodies or institutions. Most of the times people mistake unaided educational institutions or which are not financed as public authorities {Sec2 (h)}

 

As per section 4 of the Act, imposes a legal obligation on each public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed to facilitate every citizen, right to inspect and seek of information. It has to display full particulars of the organization information in its websites and also by other means of communication including categories of documents held by it or under its control, budget allocated to it plans and amounts spent.

 

Role of Public information officers(PIOs)

PIOs are officers designated by the public authorities in all administrative units or offices under it to provide information to the citizens requesting for information under the Act.  Functions of CIC and SIC

Central information commission (CIC) and State information commissions (SIC) are constituted under the act to look into the complaints of applicants against the PIOs and redress the complaints of citizens. They have the power of civil courts to summon witnesses and take evidence like civil courts.

 

Procedure for seeking information

As per Section 6, every citizen who desires information from public authority has to make an application in writing or through electronic means (e-mail/fax) in English/Hindi/the official language of the area to the PIO, mentioning the particulars of the information sought by him. The applicant need not give any reasons/propose /justification for seeking such information but has to pay such fees as may be prescribed. However citizens who are below poverty line are exempted from making payment of fee. Format is given at the end.

Time limit for providing information:

The PIO within 30 days from the date of application has to provide the information to applicant. If information sought relates to life and liberty of a person, the information has to be provided within 48 hrs of the request. If the interests of a third party are involved then time limit will be 40 days.   If PIO fails to give the information within the specified time, it will be deemed to be a refusal to give such information. And the applicant may seek remedy by an appeal.

Grounds of rejection

PIO can refuse to give information, if the information is exempted  u/s 8 or if it infringes the copy right of any person other than the state.

 

What is exempt information?

It may be noted that not all information can be inspected and sought. Certain 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, will not be allowed to be inspected and provided. Similarly information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court, or information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature can not be disclosed. Although the public authority may have information which is of commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, it should not disclose such information if   disclosure of such information would harm the competitive position of a third party. However the public authority may give such information, only if, the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; Other  personal information or information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders: cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers,  disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual;

The authorities like Central intelligence, RAW and directorate of are excluded from the purview of the act because of the sensitive nature of information disclosure of which may harm the interest of the country

 

Partial disclosure

If information sought contains both exempt and other information, Public authority can separate exempt information and disclose only that part of the record which does not contain exempt information.

 

Appeal

If information sought is refused or delay is made in giving the information, a First Appeal can be filed  before  the officer senior in rank to the PIO in the concerned Public Authority within 30 days from the expiry of the prescribed time limit or from the receipt of the decision.. First appeal has to dispose off within 3o days and it may extend, if it is necessary.

 

Second appeal to the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, within 90 days of the date on which the decision was given or should have been made by the First Appellate Authority. If any delay is there in filing appeal, it may be  condoned by the Appellate Authority if sufficient cause is shown

 

Third Party appeal against PIO's decision must be filed within 30 days before first Appellate Authority; and, within 90 days of the decision on the first appeal, before the appropriate Information Commission which is the second appellate authority.

 

 

Judgments on RTI act:

With a view to make the reader understands the rights and exemptions under the Act, some judgments have been selected and extracted.

 

In the case of Rakesh Kumar Gupta Vs Public information officer, an applicant under RTI Act, sought inspection and copies of all records available with the income tax department including assessment orders of Escorts Ltd, Dr. Naresh Trehan and connected parties. The CIC upheld the right of the Applicant to call for the information although this comes under exemptions u/s S. 8(1) (j). CIC felt that the exemption did not apply to corporate entities and can only be claimed by natural persons and not by corporate entities. This is quite an interesting judgment as it nullifies the exemption u/s 8(1) (J). However in the case of   Justice Balakrishnan, Ex-chief Justice of India, the Central PIO asked Justice Balakrishnan if he had any objection to revealing the details of his income to an applicant. Justice Balakrishnan asserted his right u/s 8(1) j and PIO refused to give permission. Therefore while making applications, the distinction between invasion of privacy and public interest must be kept in mind .

In the case of Canara Bank Vs CIC, employee of Canara Bank asked for details of employees transfer, postings, promotions etc. Information was denied on the ground it falls under exceptions provided under Sec. 8 of R.T.I. Act, 2005. CIC overruled bank’s decision. In appeal by Canara Bank Kerala High Court ordered that, that bank has to disclose those details.

 

In another case Hemani Malhotra & Vineeta Goyala Vs High Court of Delhi. Petitioners appeared for the exam of Delhi Higher judicial service, which is conducted out two stages i.e. (i) Written examination (ii) viva voce. Results of the written of the written examination were not disclosed and the petitioners were directly called for viva-voce. After, viva-voce the name of the petitioners did not appear on the merit list. Petitioners filed application R.T.I. demanding information about the written result. PIO did not supply most of the information on the pretext of confidentiality. High Court directed the Registrar to supply the information of the written result.

 

In another case, Mr. Prahlad N. Kalra Vs Lancer&Rsquo;S Convent Sr. Sec. The appellant Mr. Prahlad sought information about number of students and teachers employed and salary and other particulars. CIO confirmed the PIO decision and refused to provide information on the ground that RTI act is not applicable to the unaided private schools and even other wise also it comes under exemption u/s 8(j) of the act

Conclusion

Rights under the Act must be exercised by every citizen to expose any activities which are against the interest of public and to prevent corruption and also misuse of public office or position.

 

G S Rao,

Chief Manager (Legal) ,OCL INDIA LIMITED

"Loved reading this piece by G S Rao?
Join CAclubindia's network for Daily Articles, News Updates, Forum Threads, Judgments, Courses for CA/CS/CMA, Professional Courses and MUCH MORE!"






Category Others, Other Articles by - G S Rao 



Comments


update