The Government of India enacted the Right to Information Act which came into effect from 12 October, 2005. The Act provides the ‘RIGHT’ to the citizen to seek almost any information from the Government. The aim behind this Act is two-fold: to enable the common man to get government information that rightfully should be available to him/her, and to bring more transparency in governance and make every public authority accountable to the people. Under the Indian Constitution, right to information is a fundamental right of the citizen. Every citizen of the country pays taxes in some form or the other and has the RIGHT to know how this money is being spent by the Government. Also, the Act gives him the RIGHT to know about the policies, processes and outcomes of the policies of the Government. The need for the Act arose, as information was not being made available to the people by the government functionaries on their own. This was resulting in corruption, non-transparency in governance and alienation of the common man from the government, which rightfully needed to be responsible to the common man who is also a tax payer. The Act lays down the process for seeking information, and the administrative structure to ensure that the information sought by the applicant is provided to him/her.
Under this Act the common man can seek any information from any public office or public body. The citizen can get information on any official records, documents, emails, and press releases. This includes printed matter and electronic data. In addition, the information will be made available to the applicant in the form that he/she seeks it in-it may be as an attested copy or a photo copy.
Also, the Central Government has directed all the Ministries, Departments and other public organisations to make public information on government procurement, Public Private Partnerships, transfer policy and transfer/posting orders, receipt and disposal of RTI applications, Citizens’ Charter, and discretionary and non-discretionary issues. This information should be provided by the central and state governments on their own, without waiting for the people to ask for it.
The purpose of such a directive is that the people get maximum information about the activities and policies of the government on their own without them asking for it. This will help to makes the public bodies more transparent as the official information will now be available with the people. This will also help in preventing corruption, which is generally due to secrecy around public matters, as the people do not know what the government is doing. Since the common man can now get almost any kind of information, this will work as a check on the way the government functionaries work and help to reduce corruption and abuse of government powers.
Benefit to Rural People
The rural people can now get any information on the various schemes and programmes being implemented by the government in the rural areas. The aim of the programmes, targeted beneficiaries and their list is requird to be provided by all governments.
How to get the information required?
Under this Act, every government office will now appoint a Public Information Officer. Any citizen can write an application to the PIO and get the required information. The appointment and scope of duties of the PIOs are defined so that the people know what are his duties.
As per the rule, the information has to be made available within 30 days from the date the letter is received by the officer. However, you need to be careful about the office and the information that you are seeking. If the information does not pertain to the public office to which you have written the letter, it may take long to get the information.
Under the RTI Act, the applicant has to make a payment of only Rs. 10 which can be paid in cash or sent by a postal order or a Demand Draft. The information about how to seek this information can also be got from the PIO.
Under the Act, there is an officer to whom you can complain if this is not done. This officer is senior than the PIO. If the matter is not resolved to satisfaction even after approaching the senior officer, then in this case, you can appeal to the State Information Commission (appointed by the State government) and they will call the concerned officers and see that the matter is resolved. At the central level there is a central Information Commission.
There is some information that cannot be provided to the citizens. This is such information that when revealed may affect the security of the country, and therefore cannot be shared with the people.
The law has been made to facilitate information access, not to harass people or trouble anyone. So, ask for only that information which benefits you and others. In addition to the responsibility of the government to share public information with the citizens, the citizens also need to understand their duties and responsibilities. Use this law to bring about more transparency and remove corruption in public life.