From Secrecy to Accountability: A Deep Dive into the RTI Act

From Secrecy to Accountability: A Deep Dive into the RTI Act

Author: Chaitrali Naik, Student of National Law University, Delhi.


The Right to Information (RTI) Act, a crucial legislative measure found in the Indian Constitution, has revolutionised the government environment by granting citizens access to information. The freedom movement, when information access was viewed as essential to an informed public, is where the RTI Act had its start. However, the need for official legislation on the right to knowledge only became more pressing in the post-independence era. The Freedom of Information Bill, which was eventually transformed into the RTI Act, was the first move in this direction in 2000.

Approving the RTI Act

On June 15, 2005, the Indian Parliament passed the RTI Act, and on June 22, 2005, it was ratified. It was passed to give citizens a workable framework for securing access to data that is managed by public authorities. Except for the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Act is applicable throughout all of India. Its enactment in 2005 fostered accountability and transparency and signalled a paradigm shift in the relationship between the people and their government.

Categories of Data Subjects to RTI Requests

Residents of India may file an RTI Act request for information with a “public authority,” which is any institution or body that is founded or constituted by the government, as well as anybody or authority created by a state legislature or an act of Parliament. The Act addresses issues concerning a petitioner’s life and liberty as well as information on how public bodies operate.

 RTI Act’s Objectives

The RTI Act’s primary goals are to safeguard citizens’ rights to information and privacy, as well as to encourage accountability and transparency in the operations of public authorities. The Act gives citizens access to information kept by public authorities and attempts to guarantee that public agencies operate in an accountable and transparent manner.

Important Provisions of the RTI Act

  • Appointment of Information Commissioners:

Information Commissioners are crucial in addressing appeals and complaints, and the RTI Act places a high priority on their independence and impartiality. Appointees must possess legal, administrative, and intellectual skills, as highlighted by the screening process, to guarantee that their choices are just and well-informed. The purpose of this clause is to protect the RTI regime’s integrity.

  • Right to Request Information:

At the core of the RTI Act is the fundamental right of citizens to request information from public bodies. This allows people to find out more about the decisions, policies, and spending of their government. By putting this right at the centre of the law, the Act encourages responsibility and openness in public authorities and turns citizens into engaged participants in democracy.

  • Time Frame for Providing Information:

The RTI Act places an emphasis on efficiency by giving public bodies a fixed amount of time—typically 30 days—to reply to requests for information. This clause guarantees information distribution in a timely manner, with few exceptions for extensions granted in certain situations. Preventing unnecessary delays and preserving the RTI process’ efficacy are the major objectives.

  • Provisions for Appeals:

Recognizing the possibility of information requests being turned down or not properly handled, the RTI Act has opportunities for appeals. Applicants who are not pleased may file an appeal with the appropriate Information Commission or a higher authority. As a kind of checks and balances, this appeal process provides citizens with a way to appeal when their right to information is violated.

  • Fees and Exemptions:

The Act establishes a charge structure for information access in order to strike a balance between the requirement to pay for processing expenses and accessibility. Recognizing economic inequities, there are exceptions for those who are economically disadvantaged and below the poverty level. In order to preserve transparency and safeguard confidential information, public bodies may sometimes choose to withhold certain information.

  • Protection of Whistleblowers:

Whistleblowers are protected from damage by the RTI Act when they reveal corruption or misconduct. By encouraging people to fearlessly come forward in the quest of the truth, free from the fear of abuse or harassment, this protection fosters an atmosphere of accountability.

  • Information Dissemination:

Under the RTI Act, public entities must proactively provide the public with precise information about their roles, duties, and financial resources. By reducing the need for specific information requests, this proactive disclosure hopes to increase transparency and facilitate public access to important information.

Significance of the RTI Act

The RTI Act, 2005 engages the resident to scrutinise the mystery and maltreatment of force rehearsed in administration.

It is through the data commissions at the focal and state levels that admittance to such data is given.

RTI data can be viewed as a public decent, for it is pertinent to the interests of residents and is a significant point of support for the working of a straightforward and dynamic majority rule government.

The data helps in making the government responsible as well as valuable for different purposes which would serve the general interests of the general public.

Consistently, around 6,000,000 applications are documented under the RTI Act, making it the most broadly utilised daylight regulation internationally.

These applications look for data on a scope of issues, from considering the public authority responsible for the conveyance of essential freedoms and qualifications to scrutinising the most noteworthy workplaces of the country.

Utilising the RTI Act, individuals have looked for data that legislatures don’t want to uncover as it might uncover defilement, basic liberties infringement, and bad behaviours by the state.

An instrument for ensuring accountability is the availability of information regarding the policies, decisions, and actions of the government that have an impact on the lives of citizens.

The High Court has, in a few decisions, held that the RTI is an essential right moving from Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution, which assurance to residents the ability to speak freely and articulation and the right to life, separately

Amendments to the RTI Act

Political parties are removed from the scope of the RTI Act and the definition of public authorities by the RTI Amendment Bill of 2013.

The draft arrangement 2017 which accommodates conclusion of case in the event of death of candidate can prompt more goes after the existence of informants.

The proposed RTI Correction Act 2018 is pointed toward providing the Middle the ability to fix the residencies and pay rates of state and focal data chiefs, which are legally safeguarded under the RTI Act. The move will weaken the independence and freedom of CIC.

The Demonstration proposes to supplant the proper 5-year residency with as much recommended by the public authority.

Distinguishing Between the Rights to Privacy and Information

The right to privacy prevents the disclosure of a person’s personal information without that person’s agreement, even while the right to information permits citizens to access information stored by public authorities. To maintain accountability and openness in the operations of public authorities while safeguarding an individual’s privacy, the two rights must be balanced and are complementary.

Notable Decisions Regarding the RTI Act

The Supreme Court of India has rendered several significant rulings regarding the RTI Act, including:

In Raj Narain v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1976), the Supreme Court decided that Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution will recognize the right to information as a fundamental right.

In the 1975 case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain, the Supreme Court ruled that the people in an Indian democracy are the masters and that they have a right to know how their government is run.

Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms (2002): The Supreme Court ruled that the freedom of speech and expression is the foundational right that leads to the right to information.

The RTI Act’s detractors

The RTI Act has been criticised for being abused and misused by certain people and groups, which has prompted requests for changes to the Act. Opponents contend that rather than encouraging accountability and openness, the Act has been used to intimidate and harass public employees. On the other hand, advocates of the Act contend that it is necessary to guarantee sound governance and encourage public participation in the decision-making process.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Right to Information Act is an essential instrument for encouraging accountability and openness in the operations of Indian public bodies. Better governance has resulted from its use in exposing corruption and wrongdoing in government departments and agencies. To maintain openness, accountability, and privacy protection, it is crucial to achieve a balance between the rights to information and privacy. Nevertheless, the Act has also come under fire for overuse and abuse.


Article on RTI from Byjus

The Hindu, Opinion Section


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