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The basic feature of every democracy is openness, transparency. As India being world’s largest democracy the Right to Information acts as a potential weapon in the hands of general public, which can be used to keep check on the governmental bodies. The Right to Information has emerge as a practicable tool that can be used to access information held with the administrative or public authority. In context to India Right to Information is not only Statutory Right but also fundamental right. The main objective of RTI act is to make governance more accountable and transparent. With its objective to promote transparency in working of every public authority, it covers wide range of authorities, both at the central level and state levels.

The journey of seeking information from government was not easy in India. The functioning of judiciary and legislative was transparent, the legislature shows it by the way of debate and judiciary by adopting natural justice principle, giving both the parties a chance of hearing in a democratic way. But Executive maintained secrecy by keeping its resolutions and records confidential.

The citizens’ right to get information gained power when the United Nations adopted a charter of Human Rights providing everyone “the right to seek and receive information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers [1]. But hindrance to the disclosure of information was restricted by the Official Secrets Act, enacted in 1889 and amended in 1923. The revolution of seeking information was only possible in India after the enactment of Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Struggle for the RTI started in a small dusty town in Rajasthan called Beawar, a people’s movement was launched to fight against corruption. In the backdrop of slogans like “Hamara paisa, Hamara hisab” and “Ham Janenge, Ham Jiyenge”, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Association for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants), a People`s Organisation undertook the bold initiative to arouse the common people about their right to seek information which eventually led to legislation called ‘Right to Information Act, 2005. This dharna, which went on for 44 days, ultimately resulted in the Right to Information Act in 2005, which now allows every citizen to get information and access government records.[2]

India as party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India was under an international obligation to effectively guarantee right to information as per Article 19 of the ICCPR.[3]

The formal recognition of the right to Information as legal right occurred more than two decades before it came into forced, when the Supreme Court of India ruled in State of U.P. v. Raj Narain that the right to information is implicit in the right to freedom of speech and expression explicitly guaranteed in Article 19.[4]

The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to make the Government accountable, empower the citizens and promote transparency in the working of government, curtail Corruption and make our democracy work for the people in a real sense. The act stands as a big milestone towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the government.[5] 

In the Maneka Gandhi case, Justice Krishna Iyer said, a government which functions in secrecy, not only acts against democratic decency but also buries itself with its own burial.[6] The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment of the case Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI held that “the freedom of speech and expression has no geographical limitations and it carries with it the right of a citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also[7].

In Government of India vs. Cricket Association of Bengal, (1995) the apex court has made it clear that the right to information is implicit in the right to free speech and expression includes the ” right to receive and impart information. It is an inalienable component of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of our Constitution[8]. The fundamental rights enshrined into our Constitution guarantee, among others, the right to free speech and expression[9].

On 10 May 2005, The RTI Amendment Bill 2005, was tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 11 May 2005 and by the Rajya Sabha on 12 May. On 15 June 2005, President APJ Abdul Kalam gave his assent to the RTI Act, 2005. With the presidential assent, the central Government and the state government had 120 days to implement the provision of the bill. The Act formally came into force on 12 Oct 2005.

The RTI Act has continually contributed to ensuring greater transparency and greater accountability in the working of public authorities and with the help of RTI many plagues, that were decaying the nation from inside have been brought to light. The Vyapam Scam of Madhya Pradesh which involved a major racket where seats in colleges were sold for cash, The Adarsh Society scam the applications filed by RTI activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were pivotal in discovering links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-story building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives, And many more.

The evolution and wide understanding of RTI laws has came through large number of Supreme Court & High Court verdicts. In Adesh Kumar v. Union of India, Delhi High Court held that RTI can’t be Denied on the Ground that Information sought is Irrelevant[10].In Vishwas Bhamburkar v. PIO, Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd, Chief Information Commissioner held that “RTI Information cannot be denied for Lack of Aadhaar Card”[11].In Harinder Dhingra Vs. Bar Associations, Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula, Chief Information Commissioner held “Bar Councils Liable to Provide Information under RTI Act”[12]

In Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commission & ors , Supreme Court held that “IT Returns is “Personal Information”, not under the Purview of RTI Act”[13]

In Shri Y.N. Prasad v. PIO, Ahlmad Evening Court, the appellant had sought information relating to judicial proceedings to which he was not a party. The CIC in this case of 2017 opined that Judicial proceedings and records thereof are public records and the appellant has a right to secure desired information.[14]

List of Landmark cases on Right to Information decided by the Supreme Court of India

1. People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) And Another, Petitioner V. Union Of India And Another, With Lok Satta And Others, V. Union Of India, 2003(001) SCW 2353 SC

2. Union Of India V. Association For Democratic Reforms And Another, With People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) And Another, V. Union Of India And Another, 2002(005) SCC 0361SC

3. Union Of India And Others, V. Motion Picture Association And Others, 1999(006) SCC 0150 SC

4. Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. And Others V. Union Of India And Others, 1997(004) SCC 0306SC

5. Tata Press Ltd., V. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited And Others, 1995(005) SCC 0139 SC

6. Secretary, Ministry Of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. Of India, And Others, V. Cricket Association Of Bengal And Others, 1995(002) SCC 0161 SC

7. Life Insurance Corporation Of India, V. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah, 1992 (003) SCC 0637 SC

8. Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd., V. Proprietors Of Indian Express Newspapers, Bombay Pvt. Ltd. And Others, 1988 (004) SCC 0592 SC

9. Sheela Barse, V. State Of Maharashtra, 1987 (004) SCC 0373 SC

10. Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Private Ltd., And Others, V. Union Of India And Others, 1985 (001) SCC 0641 SC

11. S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India, MANU/SC/0080/1981, AIR 1982 SC 149, 1981Supp(1)SCC87.

12. The State Of U. P., V. Raj Narain And Others, 1975 (004) SCC 0428 SC

and the list is unexhaustive. 

[1] Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 October, 1948

[2] https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/two-decades-of-the-right-to-information-movement-752461

[3] https://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/content/national-level-rti

[4] ibid

[5] https://rti.gov.in/

[6] Manoj Kumar Bhati, Right to Information in India: Need for it and Perspectives www.Iegalserviceinindia.com, 5 March, 2008

[7] ibid

[8] Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India vs. Cricket Association of Bengal & ANR, (1995) 2 scc

[9] The Constitution of India, 1950

[10] https://www.vakilno1.com/legal-news/important-judgments-on-right-to-information.html

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

1 Comment

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