According to a report, the backlog of appeals or complaints under the Right to Information (RTI) Act is steadily increasing in Information Commissions every year.
GS II- Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Findings of the report:
- Right to Information (RTI) Act
- Is RTI a Fundamental Right?
- Enforcement of RTI
- Exemptions under RTI Act
- Central Information Commission (CIC)
Findings of the report:
- At present, nearly 3.15 lakh complaints or appeals pending with 26 information commissions across India.
- The highest number of pending cases were in Maharashtra followed by Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, etc.
- Two out of 29 information commissions across the country are completely defunct, four of them headless at the moment, and only 5% of the positions are occupied by women.
- Jharkhand and Tripura have been completely defuncted for 29 months and 15 months respectively. Manipur, Telangana, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are without chiefs.
- The commissions did not impose penalties in 95% of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable.
- The report also flags concerns regarding tardy disposal rates in several commissions and the lack of transparency in their functioning.
- Only 11 information commissions out of 29 provide e-filing facility for RTI applications or appeals, but only five are functional.
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:
- disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
- powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
- 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.
- 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.
- Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority.
- 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.
Exemptions under RTI Act
- Section 24 of RTI says that RTI is not applicable to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule with only exception for information on allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
- Second Schedule includes 26 intelligence and security agencies under its ambit. Some of them are IB, RAW, Cabinet Secretariat, BSF, NSG etc.
- Recently, Strategic Forces Command (SFC) which forms part of the National Command Authority (NCA) has been added to this schedule.
- Exemption to certain Information under Section 8 of RTI
- National security or sovereignty
- National economic interests
- Relations with foreign states
- Law enforcement and the judicial process
- Cabinet and other decision making documents
- Trade secrets & commercial confidentiality
- Individual safety
- Personal privacy
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
- Order enquiry into any matter on reasonable grounds only.
- Secure compliance of its decisions from any public authority.
- Receive and inquire into a complaint from any person:
- Who has not received any response to his request for information within a specified time.
- Who deems the information given to him/her incomplete, false or misleading, and any other matter related to securing the information.
- Who has been unable to submit a request for information due to the non-appointment of an officer.
- Who considers the fees so charged unreasonable.
- Who was refused the information requested.
- 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.
- During inquiries, the CIC has the powers of a civil court, such as the powers to:
- Summon and enforce the attendance of persons, and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and produce documents or things
- Require the discovery and inspection of documents
- Receive evidence on affidavit
- Requisition public records or copies from any office or court
- Issue summons for the examination of documents or witnesses
- Any other matter that may be prescribed
- 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.
-Source: The Hindu