The Supreme Court once said that- ‘People are the masters, and the masters have a right to know how the government, meant to serve them, are functioning’. Right to information, as the name suggests, is a right given to every Indian citizen whereby they can secure access to information under the control of public authorities which will promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The RTI Act mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.
Right to Information is a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Indian constitution. This was also reiterated in the famous case of Raj Narain v State of Uttar Pradesh(1975).
Objective of Right to Information Act
- It empowers citizens to question the government
- Helps in reducing corruption in the government
- Makes the citizens well informed about the functioning of the governmental machinery.
Background of the Right to Information Act, 2005
RTI Act, 2005 basically empowers the citizens to question the government and its working. All sorts of organizations which are substantially funded by the government and other organizations such as constitutional authorities, agencies etc come under the purview of Right to Information Act.
Two reasons why this act is unique and different
- It is one of the few acts which was enacted due to the pressure created in the society. In the year 2005 after a lot of hue and cry regarding its enactment, RTI was finally passed by the UPA government.
- RTI Act 2005 is a right based legislation. – Since Right to information in India is a fundamental right this act was enacted by the government of India for the people.
How can one file an RTI in India?
- Any person who is a citizen of India can file an RTI application by submitting an application in website https://rtionline.gov.in/
- One needs to click on the submit request option on the link mentioned above. ‘Guidelines for use of RTI online portal’ screen would be displayed.
- You can go through the various guidelines given and click on ‘I have read and understood the above guidelines’ option.
- Then you need to select the Department for which an applicant wants to file an RTI
- Other information like mobile number, BPL category etc needs to be filled
- Then a unique registration number would be issued and after all the details have been filled, payment option would be provided to the applicant
- After completing the payment process, the application would reach electronically to the nodal officer of the concerned department, who would transmit the RTI application electronically to the concerned CPIO.
Right to Information Amendment 2019
RTI Amendment Act, 2019 was passed by the parliament in July 2019 and it brought changes in Sections 13, 16 and 27 of the RTI Act, 2005. It led to empowering the Central government to prescribe rules to decide tenure, salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the chief and other information commissioners of the CIC and all state information commissions
RTI act aims at the accountability of the government and acts as a deterrent factor for the government servants and bureaucrats keeping in place the doctrine of checks and balances.
Major highlights of the act, 2019:
Term: Section 13 & 16 of the RTI Act, 2005 talks about the Terms of various officers. In RTI Act 2005 the term for the Central Chief Information Commissioner (CCIC), State-level Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and Information Commissioners (IC) was fixed for the term of 5 years (or until the age of 65 years whichever comes earlier).
But after the amendment, it has changed and now the appointment will be for such a term as may be prescribed by the CG
Salary: In the RTI Act, 2005 the salary of CIC was equivalent to the salary of the Chief Election Commissioner, salary of State CIC and the Information Commissioners (ICs) was also equivalent to the salary of the Election Commissioners and at the state level, SIC the salary was equivalent Chief Secretary to the state.
After the amendment the term of office and the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the CIC and ICs and the State CICs and the State ICs shall be such as may be prescribed by the central government.
Deductions: Earlier in the 2005 act there was a provision that if Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are receiving the pension or say any other retirement benefits from the previous government service, so in that case their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to that pension according to the old act.
This provision also stands removed after the amendment.
Development of Right to Information act in India is indeed a measure of efficiency of any administration and it goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigilance on the instruments of the government. In order to promote transparency and accountability, the government organizations are bound to provide information on an RTI application within 30 days.