Libertatem Magazine

The Right to Information Act in India

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The journey of seeking information from the government was not easy in India. The functioning of the judiciary and legislative was transparent, the legislature shows it by the way of debate and judiciary by adopting the natural justice principle, giving both the parties a chance of hearing democratically. But Executive maintained secrecy by keeping its resolutions and records confidential. 

The citizens’ right to get information gained power when the United Nations adopted a charter of Human Rights providing everyone “the right to seek and receive information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. But hindrance to the disclosure of information was restricted by the Official Secrets Act, enacted in 1889 and amended in 1923. The revolution of seeking information was only possible in India after the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005

The Struggle for the RTI started in a small dusty town in Rajasthan called Beawar, a people’s movement was launched to fight against corruption. In the backdrop of slogans like “Hamara paisa, Hamara hisab” and “Ham Janenge, Ham Jiyenge”, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Association for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants), a People`s Organisation undertook the bold initiative to arouse the common people about their right to seek information which eventually led to legislation called ‘Right to Information Act, 2005. This dharna, which went on for 44 days, ultimately resulted in the Right to Information Act in 2005, which now allows every citizen to get information and access government records.

In Government of India vs. Cricket Association of Bengal, (1995) the apex court has made it clear that the right to information is implicit in the right to free speech and expression includes the ” right to receive and impart information. It is an inalienable component of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of our Constitution. The fundamental rights enshrined into our Constitution guarantee, among others, the right to free speech and expression. The law related to RTI was passed by Parliament on 15th June 2005 and it came into force on 12th October 2005.

The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to make the Government accountable, empower the citizens and promote transparency in the working of government, curtail Corruption and make our democracy work for the people in a real sense. The act stands as a big milestone towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the government.  

In the Maneka Gandhi case, Justice Krishna Iyer said, a government that functions in secrecy, not only acts against democratic decency but also buries itself with its burial. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment of the case Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI held that “the freedom of speech and expression has no geographical limitations and it carries with it the right of a citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also.

The RTI Act has continually contributed to ensuring greater transparency and greater accountability in the working of public authorities and with the help of RTI many plagues, that were decaying the nation from inside have been brought to light. The Vyapam Scam of Madhya Pradesh which involved a major racket where seats in colleges were sold for cash, The Adarsh Society scam the applications filed by RTI activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were pivotal in discovering links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-story building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives, And many more.

The evolution and wide understanding of RTI laws have come through a large number of Supreme Court & High Court verdicts. In Adesh Kumar v. Union of India, Delhi High Court held that RTI can’t be Denied on the Ground that Information sought is Irrelevant. In Vishwas Bhamburkar v. PIO, Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd, Chief Information Commissioner held that “RTI Information cannot be denied for lack of Aadhaar Card”.In Harinder Dhingra Vs. Bar Associations, Rewari, Faridabad, Panchkula, Chief Information Commissioner held “Bar Councils Liable to Provide Information under RTI Act”

In Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commission & Ors , Supreme Court held that “IT Returns is “Personal Information”, not under the purview of RTI Act”

In Shri Y.N. Prasad v. PIO, Ahlmad Evening Court, the appellant had sought information relating to judicial proceedings to which he was not a party. The CIC in this case of 2017 opined that Judicial proceedings and records thereof are public records and the appellant has a right to secure desired information.


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