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Frequently Asked Question:

What is right to information ?
When did the Right to Information Act, 2005 come into force?
What is “Public Interest”?
What does a “public authority” mean?
What are the obligations of "public authority"?
Who can ask for information under RTI ?
Are “file notings’ included in the definition of Information?
What is not open to disclosure?
Is partial disclosure allowed?
Who are Public Information Officers (PIOs)?
What are the duties of a PIO?
What is the fee?
What could be the ground for rejection?
Who are 'Third Parties'?

 

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What is right to information?

    Every citizen has a right to know how the Government is functioning. Right to Information empowers every citizen to seek any information from the Government, inspect any Government documents and seek certified photocopies thereof. Some laws on Right to Information also empower citizens to official inspect any Government work or to take sample of material used in any work.
Right to Information includes the right to:
1. Inspect works, documents, records.
2. Take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
3. Take certified samples of material.
4. Obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video , cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.

    "Information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, 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. "record" includes:
a) Any document, manuscript and file
b) Any microfilm, microfiche, and facsimile copy of a document
c) Any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
d) Any other material produced by a computer or any other device;

 

     An applicant cannot ask for opinions/advice/views under the RTI Act, unless the opinion/advice/view is already on "record". However, under Section 4(1)(d), an applicant can ask for "reasons" behind a administrative or quasi judicial decision of a public authority, especially if he is a "affected person".

 

 

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When did the Right to Information Act, 2005 come into force?

   The Right to Information Act came into force fully on the 12th October, 2005 (on the120th day from the date of its enactment i.e. 5th June, 2005). Some provisions came into force with immediate effect viz. obligations of public authorities [Section 4(1)], designation of Public Information Officers and Assistant Public Information Officers [Sections 5 (1) and 5 (2)], constitution of Central Information Commission [Sections 12 and 13], constitution of State Information Commission [Sections 15 and 16], non-applicability of the Act to Intelligence and Security Organisations [Section 24] and power to make rules to carry out the provisions of the Act [Sections 27 and 28].

Who is covered under the Right to Information Act, 2005?
       The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir [Section 1].
From which orginisations of government I cannot get information ?
      The Second Schedule of the RTI Act exempts certain Public Authorities under the Central Government from disclosure of information under the RTI Act 2005.
   However, these Public Authorities have to respond to RTI Applications which pertain to subjects of Human Rights and Corruption. As per Section 5(1) of the RTI Act and the instructions of DoPT, they are also supposed to have a PIO and a AA. As on 28th March 2008, the following is the list in the Second Schedule:
1. Intelligence Bureau.
2. Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat.
3. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
4. Central Economic Intelligence Bureau.
5. Directorate of Enforcement.
6. Narcotics Control Bureau.
7. Aviation Research Centre.
8. Special Frontier Force.
9. Border Security Force.
10. Central Reserve Police Force.
11. Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
12. Central Industrial Security Force.
13. National Security Guards.
14. Assam Rifles.
15. Sashastra Seema Bal.
16. Directorate General of Income-tax (Investigation) .
17. National Technical Research Organisation.
18. Financial Intelligence Unit, India.
19. Special Protection Group.
20. Defence Research and Development Organisation.
21. Border Road Development Board.
      Similarly, some States within the union has also exempted certain Public Authorities in the respective states,from the purview of the Act. Please check separately for each State.

 

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What is Public interest?

      In the Indian context, and especially in the context of the RTI Act, 2005, a significant judgment of the Supreme Court of India can be taken note of in understanding the term “public interest”. In ‘S. P. Gupta v President of India’, AIR 1982 SC 149, Justice Bhagwati, in referring to ‘public interest’, maintained: “Redressing public injury, enforcing public duty, protecting social, collective, ‘diffused’ rights and interests vindicate public interest… [in the enforcement of which] the public or a class of the community have pecuniary interestor some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.”
       In State of Gujarat v Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kasab Jamat & others AIR 2006 Supreme Court 212, the Apex Court held “the interest of general public (public interest) is of a wide import covering public order, public health, public security, morals, economic welfare of the community, and the objects mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution [i.e. Directive Principles of State Policy]”. One of the decisions of the Central Information Commission also throws some light on this term. Public interest includes “disclosure of information that leads towards greater transparency and accountability” [in the working of a public authority] Decision No. CIC/OK/A/2006/00046, dt. 02.05.2006.

 

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What does a "public authority" mean?

It means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted: [S.2(h)]
• by or under the Constitution;
• by any other law made by Parliament;
• by any other law made by State Legislature;
• by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.and includes any-
a. body owned, controlled or substantially financed
b. non-Government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government.

 

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What are the obligations of "Public authorithy"?

It shall publish within one hundred and twenty days of the enactment:-
i. the particulars of its organization, functions and duties;
ii. the powers and duties of its officers and employees;
iii. the procedure followed in its decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability;
iv. the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions;
v. the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records used by its employees for discharging its functions;
vi. a statement of the categories of the documents held by it or under its control;
vii. the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by the members of the public, in relation to the formulation of policy or implementation thereof;
viii. a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted by it. Additionally, information as to whether the meetings of these are open to the public, or the minutes' of such meetings are accessible to the public;
ix. a directory of its officers and employees;
x. the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations;
xi. the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made;
xii. the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details and beneficiaries of such programmes;
xiii. particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted by it;
xiv. details of the information available to, or held by it, reduced in an electronic form;
xv. the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use;
xvi. the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers.[S.4(1)(b)]

 

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Who can ask for information under RTI ?

Any citizen can ask for information under these laws.The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. OCI's (Overseas Citizens of India) and PIO's (Persons of Indian Origin) card holders can also ask for information under the RTI Act.
For citizens, OCI's and PIO's who are staying out of India, the RTI Application can be filed with the PIO of the local Indian Embassy/Consulate/High Commission and they will inform you regarding the amount of application fee in local currency as well as the mode of payment.

 

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Are “file notings’ included in the definition of Information?

Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act defines ‘information’ which includes ‘record’. Section2 (i)(a) states that a ‘record’ includes any document, manuscript and file. The operative definition of a ‘file’ is given in the Manual of Office Procedure prepared by the Central Secretariat, Government of India. The definition of ‘file’ in the Manual includes ‘notes’ and ‘appendices to notes’.
The CIC has held that “file notings are not, as a matter of law, exempt from disclosure”. Thus, file notings can be disclosed under the Act. [CIC Decision No. ICPB/A-1/CIC/2006 dt.31.01.2006].

 

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What is not open to disclosure?

The following is exempt from disclosure [S.8)]
i. information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence
ii. information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
iii. information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
iv. information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
v. information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
vi. information received in confidence from foreign Government;
vii. information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
viii. information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
ix. cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
x. information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual;
xi. Notwithstanding any of the exemptions listed above, a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

 

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Is partial disclosure allowed?

Only that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information, may be provided. [S.10]

 

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Who are Public Information Officers (PIOs)?

PIOs are officers designated by the public authorities in all administrative units or offices under it to provide information to the citizens requesting for information under the Act. Any officer, whose assistance has been sought by the PIO for the proper discharge of his or her duties, shall render all assistance and for the purpose of contraventions of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a PIO.

 

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What are the duties of a PIO?

• PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and where the request cannot be made in writing, to render reasonable assistance to the person to reduce the same in writing.
• If the information requested for is held by or its subject matter is closely connected with the function of another public authority, the PIO shall transfer, within 5 days, the request to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately.
• PIO may seek the assistance of any other officer for the proper discharge of his/her duties.
• PIO, on receipt of a request, shall as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in S.8 or S.9.
• Where the information requested for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.
• If the PIO fails to give decision on the request within the period specified, he shall be deemed to have refused the request.
• Where a request has been rejected, the PIO shall communicate to the requester - (i) the reasons for such rejection, (ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred, and (iii) the particulars of the Appellate Authority.
• PIO shall provide information in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the Public Authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.
• If allowing partial access, the PIO shall give a notice to the applicant, informing:
1) That only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided;
2) The reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material question of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
3) The name and designation of the person giving the decision;
4) The details of the fees calculated by him or her and the amount of fee which the applicant is required to deposit; and
5) His or her rights with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information, the amount of fee charged or the form of access provided.
• If information sought has been supplied by third party or is treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO shall give a written notice to the third party within 5 days from the receipt of the request and take its representation into consideration.
• Third party must be given a chance to make a representation before the PIO within 10 days from the date of receipt of such notice.

 

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What is the fee?

1. Application fees to be prescribed which must be reasonable.
2. If further fees are required, then the same must be intimated in writing with calculation details of how the figure was arrived at;
3. Applicant can seek review of the decision on fees charged by the PIO by applying to the appropriate Appellate Authority;
4. No fees will be charged from people living below the poverty line
5. Applicant must be provided information free of cost if the PIO fails to comply with the prescribed time limit.

 

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What could be the ground for rejection?

1. If it is covered by exemption from disclosure. (S.8)
2. If it infringes copyright of any person other than the State. (S.9)

 

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Who are 'Third Parties'?

A third party means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a public authority. Third parties have a right to be heard in respect of applications and appeals dealing with information submitted by them to the Government in confidence. [S.2(n) and S.11]

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