Right to Information Act (RTI)
Disclosure of Government Information in India is governed by a law enacted during the British rule, the Official Secrets Act of 1889 which was amended in 1923.This law secures information related to security of the State, sovereignty of the country and friendly relations with foreign states, and contains provisions which prohibit disclosure of non-classified information. Civil Service conduct rules and the Indian Evidence Act impose further restrictions on government officials' powers to disclose information to the public. In 1975, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment on the citizen's Right to Know. The Right to Information Act enacted by the Parliament IN 2005 provides the citizens of India access to records of the Government. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir - which is covered under a State-level law. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen (including the citizens within J&K) may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Under the Act, all authorities covered must appoint their Public Information Officer (PIO). Any person may submit a request to the PIO for information in writing. It is the PIO's obligation to provide information to citizens of India who request information under the Act. If the request pertains to another public authority (in whole or part) it is the PIO's responsibility to transfer/forward the concerned portions of the request to a PIO of the other within 5 days. In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers (APIO’s) to receive RTI requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIO’s of their public authority. The citizen making the request is not obliged to disclose any information except his name and contact particulars.
Exemption from Disclosure of Information
- a) 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.
- b) 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.
- c) Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.
- d) Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
- e) Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
- f) Information received in confidence from foreign Government.
- g) Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.
- h) Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
- i) Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.
The Act specifies time limits for replying to the request.
- If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt.
- If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt.
- If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority (better concerned with the information requested), the time allowed to reply is 30 days but computed from the day after it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.
- Information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations by scheduled Security agencies (those listed in the Second Schedule to the Act) is to be provided within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission.
- However, if life or liberty of any person is involved, the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.
Cost for Information
Since the information is to be paid for, the reply of the PIO is necessarily limited to either denying the request (in whole or part) and/or providing a computation of "further fees".
- a) rupees two, for each page (in A-4 or A-3 size paper) created or copied; or
- b) actual charge or cost price, for a copy in large size paper; or
- c) actual cost price, for sample or model; or
- d) rupees five for each fifteen minutes or fraction thereof, for inspection of records; or
- e) rupees fifty per diskette or floppy, for information provided in the diskette or floppy; or
- f) actual charge fixed for publication or rupees two per page of photocopy for extracts there from; for information provided in printed form.
The time between the reply of the PIO and the time taken to deposit the further fees for information is excluded from the time allowed. If information is not provided within this period, it is treated as deemed refusal. Refusal with or without reasons may be ground for appeal or complaint. Further, information not provided in the times prescribed is to be provided free of charge.
[If the applicant is a Below Poverty Card holder, then no fee shall apply. Such BPL Card holders have to provide a copy of their BPL card along with their application to the Public Authority.]