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ALMOST 40% OF RTI REJECTION HAD NO VALID REASON

Context:

The (CIC) Central Information Commission’s annual report said that in 2019-20 the Centre’s rejection of all Right to Information (RTI) requests was the lowest rate ever.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights, Government Policies and Interventions, Right to Information Act)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Central Information Commission (CIC)
  2. Functions of CIC
  3. Right to Information (RTI) Act
  4. Is RTI a Fundamental Right?
  5. Enforcement of RTI
  6. Highlights of the CIC’s report on RTI Rejections in 2019-2020

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  • The Central Information Commission has been constituted with effect from 12-10-2005 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Hence, CIC is a Statutory Body.
  • The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities.
  • It was constituted to act upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not have been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information under the Right to Information Act.

Functions of CIC

  1. Order enquiry into any matter on reasonable grounds only.
  2. Secure compliance of its decisions from any public authority.
  3. Receive and inquire into a complaint from any person:
    1. Who has not received any response to his request for information within a specified time.
    2. Who deems the information given to him/her incomplete, false or misleading, and any other matter related to securing the information.
    3. Who has been unable to submit a request for information due to the non-appointment of an officer.
    4. Who considers the fees so charged unreasonable.
    5. Who was refused the information requested.
  4. The commission has the power to examine any record under the control of the public authority. All such records have to be given to the Commission during examination and nothing shall be withheld.
  5. During inquiries, the CIC has the powers of a civil court, such as the powers to:
    1. Summon and enforce the attendance of persons, and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and produce documents or things
    2. Require the discovery and inspection of documents
    3. Receive evidence on affidavit
    4. Requisition public records or copies from any office or court
    5. Issue summons for the examination of documents or witnesses
    6. Any other matter that may be prescribed
  6. The CIC also submits an annual report to the GOI on the implementations of the provisions of the Act. This report is then placed before both the Houses of Parliament.

Right to Information (RTI) Act

  • Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
  • Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.

This includes:

  1. disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
  2. powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
  3. financial information.

Note: “Public Authorities” here includes bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.  E.g.: Ministries, public sector undertakings, and regulators.  It also includes any entities owned, controlled or substantially financed and non-government organizations substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government.

  • The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information.
  • If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities.
  • This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.
  • The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities. 

Is RTI a Fundamental Right?

  • RTI is a fundamental right for every citizen of India.
  • The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called quasi-judicial authorities.
  • This act was enacted in order to consolidate the fundamental right in the Indian constitution ‘freedom of speech’.
  • Since RTI is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of Indian Constitution, it is an implied fundamental right.

Enforcement of RTI

The Act has established a three-tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act.

  1. The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities. These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
  2. Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority.
  3. Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission.  These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners. 

Highlights of the CIC’s report on RTI Rejections in 2019-2020

  • The Centre has only rejected only a little more than 4% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate, according to the Central Information Commission’s annual report.
  • However, almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the RTI Act, according to an analysis of report data.
  • The 40% rejections without valid reasons includes 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • Public authorities under the Central government received almost 14 lakh RTI requests in 2019-20.
  • Rejection rates have fallen since the 14% rate in 2005-06, and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8+% spike in 2014-15. In 2019-20, they hit their lowest level so far.

-Source: The Hindu

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