August 17, 2009
Sub. : The Right to Information Act, 2005
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (Act No. 22/2005) is a law enacted by the Parliament of India giving citizens of India access to records of the Central Government and State Governments. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir â€?which is covered under a State-level law. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen (including the citizens within Jammu & Kashmir) may request information from a â€śpublic authorityâ€?(a body of Government or â€śinstrumentality of Stateâ€? 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.
This law was passed by Parliament on June 15, 2005, and came fully into force on October 13, 2005. Information disclosure in India was hitherto restricted by the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act now relaxes.
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 PIOâ€™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 PIOâ€™s responsibility to transfer/forward the concerned portions of the request to a PIO of the other within five days. In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) to receive RTI requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIOs of their public authority. The citizen making the request is not obliged to disclose any information except his name and contact particulars.
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 thirty days of receipt.
If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within thirty-five 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 thirty 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 forty-five 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 forty-eight hours.
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 â€śfurther feesâ€? 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. Information if 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 time prescribed is to be provided free of charge.
For Central Departments, as of 2006, there is a fee of Rs. 10/- for filing the request, Rs. 2/- per page of information and Rs. 5/- for each hour of inspection after the first hour. 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. States Government and High Courts fix their own rules.
Members who require any assistance with regard to the filing of an Application under the RTI Act and Rules or desire to seek any further clarification or information may contact the Associationâ€™s office.