New Delhi, Jun 15: On this day, 17 years ago, the Indian Parliament passed the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Replacing the Freedom of Information Act, 2022, which failed to recognize the citizens’ right to information, the RTI Act laid down the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
Read on to find out how RTI Act came into being and how to access it today.
The beginning and amendments
The RTI Act is a revolutionary act that came into existence after the sustained efforts of anti-corruption activists in the year 2005. It was made legislation on June 15, 2005, thus providing the citizens with the right to scrutinize government organizations and functioning.
It became the most powerful law in the country as all constitutional authorities came under it. Although it does not count as one of the Fundamental Rights, it makes sure to protect them. With the advancement in technology, RTI Act has gained more importance with everything available at the tips of our fingers.
Under the RTI Act, any Indian citizen can demand government agencies to give information. If the organization fails to do so within 30 days, the concerned officer will be charged a monetary fine for violating another citizen’s right.
Other than government agencies, private bodies and NGOs that receive 95% of their funding from the government and political parties are also included under the RTI Act. In 2013, however, an RTI (Amendment) Bill was introduced, where political parties were removed from its scope. A case was filed soon after to bring all political parties under it again. Another Amendment was passed in 2019, which was heavily criticized as the watering down the independence of the information commissions.
Agencies responsible for the country’s defence, intelligence and security, like Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Intelligence Bureau, National Security Guard, etc., are exempt from RTI. There also exist other instances where information cannot be given under RTI.
However, any information available to a Member of the Parliament of state legislatures cannot be denied to a commoner.
Every citizen should know how to file RTI, which is surprisingly hassle-free. One can either write or type their questions, along with their contact details, and either post or deliver them in person to the Public Information Officer (PIO). Even an illiterate can approach a PIO, and the PIO is obligated to write down and read their requests before processing them. The Assistant PIOs in postal departments across the country are specially appointed for those who are hesitant to file their RTI through post or personally.
One can even file an Online RTI through various websites that provide this service, other than the websites set up by the central and few state governments.
The fee for filing RTI is INR 10 for central government departments. The mode of payment varies across organizations. However, anybody Below Poverty Line (BPL) need not pay the fee to file RTI.
Simply put, RTI is about holding the government accountable by demanding they provide information about themselves. So it is the responsibility of every citizen to learn about it and exercise their RTI wherever necessary.
Story first published: Wednesday, June 15, 2022, 21:43 [IST]