‘15th anniversary of the RTI Act’

Context

  • October 12, 2020 marked 15 years of the implementation of the RTI Act, which empowers people to question the Government.

About

  • The Right to Information Act,simply known as RTI, is a revolutionary Act that aims to promote transparency in government institutions in India.
  • The Act came into existence in 2005, after sustained efforts of anti-corruption activists.
  • The basic objective of the Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.

Progress so far

  • More than 2.2 lakh cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions, which are the final courts of appeal under the law.
  • The increasing backlog is exacerbated by the fact that most commissions are functioning at a reduced capacity, including the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been headless since August.
  • Maharashtra had the highest number of pending appeals, with over 59,000 cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh (47,923) and the CIC (35,653).

What type of information may be obtained under the RTI Act?

  • The type of information which may be obtained is defined under section 2 (f) of the Act as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, log books,   contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

Who are covered by the Act?

  • All Constitutional authorities, ministries, departments and agencies owned and controlled by the Government and also organisations substantially financed by the Government are covered by the RTI Act.
  • Private Bodies: Private bodies are not within the Act’s ambit directly.
    • In a decision of Sarbjit roy vs Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commissionthe Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatised public utility companies fall within the purview of RTI.
  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has been extensively used by people on a range of issues – from holding the government accountable for delivery of basic rights and entitlements to questioning the highest offices of the country.
  • Estimates suggest that every year 40 to 60 lakh RTI applications are filed.

Exemption

  • Twenty-odd organisations are exempted from RTI.
  • But all these entities are related to the country's defence and intelligence, such as RAW, BSF, CRPF, CISF, Intelligence Burearu, National Security Guard etc.

What Are Information Commissions?

  • Under the RTI Act, information commissions (ICs) have been set up-
    • the central level (Central Information Commission)
    • the states (state information commissions)
  • The commissions have the powers to-
    • require public authorities to provide access to information
    • appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs)
    • order an inquiry
  • They also have the powers of a civil court for enforcing attendance of persons, discovery of documents, receiving evidence or affidavits, issuing summons.

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