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This Article is written by Kashish Maggo of 5th Semester of BALLB of Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


A key piece of law in India, the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, was created to ensure openness, responsibility, and citizen participation in governance. It promotes transparent governance and well-informed decision-making by granting Indian citizens the right to access information maintained by public institutions. The applicability to government entities, proactive information disclosure, reasons for denial based on particular exclusions, public interest override, electronic access, and an appeals procedure are important aspects. The Act also promotes awareness, penalizes non-compliance, and protects whistleblowers. Overall, the RTI Act is essential for promoting transparency, empowering citizens, and supporting democratic ideals.

KEYWORDS- Right to Information Act, transparency, accountability, citizen participation, democratic governance, historical evolution, pre-independence advocacy, constitutional foundations, 1975 judicial acknowledgment, 1990s MKSS Campaign, Aruna Roy, Commissions, proactive disclosure, recent amendments, political parties, whistleblowers, bureaucratic challenges, S R Hiremath vs. RBI (2016), salient characteristics, access to information, robust appeals process, empowered citizenry.


The Right to Information (RTI) Act is a crucial piece of legislation created to give citizens the freedom to access information held by public authorities and governmental entities. The RTI Act, which was passed to increase transparency and accountability, is a cornerstone of contemporary democratic governance because it gives people the right to inquire about and access crucial information regarding decisions, policies, and actions taken by the government. The RTI Act strengthens the principles of good governance and upholds fundamental rights by promoting open and informed interactions between citizens and their governing institutions. This results in a society that is more accountable and participative.


The Right to Information (RTI) Act is required because of a number of significant elements that highlight how vital transparency, accountability, and citizen participation are in a democratic society:

* Transparency in Governance: The RTI Act addresses the requirement for an open, transparent government that makes its choices, acts, and policies known to the general public. Between citizens and government institutions, this transparency contributes to the development of credibility and trust.

* Citizen empowerment: People have a right to know how their government works and what factors influence its decisions. By giving people access to information, the RTI Act gives people the power to make informed decisions and actively engage in the democratic process.

* Preventing Corruption and Mismanagement: The RTI Act’s transparency serves as a disincentive to unscrupulous behavior and the abuse of authority by government agencies. By enabling citizens to examine activities and expenses, it lowers the possibility of corruption and encourages efficient administration of public resources.

* Accountability and accountability: The RTI Act ensures that public officials and institutions stay accountable for their actions and choices by allowing citizens to request information and explanations from public authorities. This encourages a culture of accountability and ethical conduct.

* Effective Policy Formulation: Information access aids citizens in understanding the justification for government actions and choices. In turn, this makes it possible for public conversations and debates to be more fruitful, which helps policymakers make better decisions.

* Protecting Fundamental Rights: The freedom of speech and expression is dependent on the right to knowledge, which enables people to exercise their fundamental liberties by learning about the laws and policies that impact them.

* Encouraging Good Governance: The RTI Act is an essential tool for supporting a well-functioning and equitable society by encouraging good governance values including transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and inclusivity.

* Preventing Arbitrary Decisions: Because of the RTI Act, public authorities must now give good grounds for their judgments. This prevents arbitrary behaviors and encourages just and equitable decision-making.

* Strengthening Democracy: For a democracy to thrive, its citizens must be informed. By ensuring that citizens have the capacity to access information and hold their government responsible, the RTI Act helps to maintain the health of democratic institutions.

History of RTI act in India

The history of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in India is marked by a series of significant developments that culminated in the passage of the landmark legislation in 2005.

Here’s an overview of its historical evolution:

From the pre-independence advocacy of figures like Gandhi to the post-independence constitutional underpinning of free expression, the genesis of India’s RTI Act spans a rich historical period. The RTI Act was passed in 2005 as a result of the crucial 1975 judicial acknowledgment of the right to know, the 1990s MKSS Campaign, and later initiatives by campaigners like Aruna Roy. In order to strengthen public empowerment, combat corruption, and promote more open and accountable government, this Act included crucial elements like Commissions, disclosure requirements, and citizen request rights. Since it was put into effect in 2005, the Act has continued to take on new forms as a result of discussions and ongoing developments.

The Right to Information Act of 2005 contains significant provisions:

* Section 2(h): All authorities and entities under the control of the federal government, state governments, or municipal bodies are considered public authorities. 

* The scope of RTI also includes civil organizations that receive a significant portion of their funding from the government, either directly or indirectly.

Government must keep information current and proactively communicate it, according to Section 4 1(b).

* Section 6: Specifies a straightforward process for information security.

* Section 7 establishes a deadline for PIOs to provide information.

* Only the bare minimum of information is shielded from disclosure in Section 8.

* Exemptions from the RTI Act’s requirements for information disclosure are mentioned in Section 8 (1).

* If the greater public interest is served, Section 8 (2) permits revelation of information exempt from the Official Secrets Act of 1923.

* Section 19: Two-tier appeals process.

* Section 20: Specifies penalties for failure to deliver information on time, as well as for information that is inaccurate, incomplete, deceptive, or distorted.

* Section 23 prohibits lower courts from hearing lawsuits or applications. However, this does not alter the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India or the high courts as provided for in Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution.

Recent Amendments

* Political parties are no longer considered public authorities under the RTI Amendment Bill 2013, and as a result, are no longer covered by the RTI Act.

* More attempts to end the lives of whistleblowers may result from the planned provision for 2017 that allows for case closure in the event of the applicant’s demise.

* With the proposed RTI Amendment Act 2018, the RTI Act’s statutorily protected state and central information commissioners will have the ability to choose their own terms of office and compensation. The change will reduce CIC’s independence and autonomy.

* The Act proposes to replace the fixed 5-year tenure with as much prescribed by the government.

 Admin (2023) Right to information – objectives, provision, significance, criticism, BYJUS. Available at: https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/right-to-information-rti/ (Accessed: 12 August 2023).

Criticism of RTI Act

* One of the act’s biggest drawbacks is that the bureaucracy’s shoddy record-keeping causes files to go missing. The information commissioners are not adequately staffed.

* The Whistle Blower’s Act and other supplemental measures are weakening the impact of the RTI statute.

* RTI requests are increasing as a result of the government’s failure to actively disseminate information in the public domain as required by the act.

* There have been reports of pointless RTI requests, and the information gathered has also been used to threaten government officials.

Case laws

* Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay (2011):

Facts: A resident of Kolkata named Aditya Bandopadhyay requested information from the CBSE under the RTI Act regarding the evaluated answer sheets of the All-India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) that his kid had taken.

Issues: The main concern was whether evaluated answer sheets qualified as “information” for purposes of the RTI Act and if examinees had a right to see their answer sheets.

Judgement: Aditya Bandopadhyay won the case before the Supreme Court, which declared that the RTI Act’s term of “information” includes assessed answer sheets. As it encourages openness, accountability, and fairness in evaluation procedures, the court highlighted that the right to information includes the right to view evaluated answer sheets.

* Union of India vs. Namit Sharma (2013):

Facts: Namit Sharma requested information about correspondences between the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding a particular case in an RTI request to the PMO.

Issues: The main concern was whether the RTI Act allowed for the disclosure of public employees’ personal information, including their assets, debts, and income tax returns.

Judgement: The Supreme Court ruled that the RTI Act allows for the disclosure of a public employee’s personal information, including their assets and liabilities, as long as it furthers the public interest in transparency and accountability. The court stressed the need to strike a balance between the public’s right to access information about how public institutions are run and the right of public employees to privacy.

* S R Hiremath vs. RBI (2016):

Facts: S R Hiremath requested inspection reports for specific banks from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in an RTI application.

Issues: The main concern was whether or not RBI was exempt from publishing information on bank inspection reports under the RTI Act.

Judgement: The RBI is not immune from providing bank inspection reports under the RTI Act, the Delhi High Court ruled in its judgment. According to the court, sharing this information promotes transparency in the financial industry and the general public’s interest. The court’s judgment reaffirmed how crucial the RTI Act is to encouraging transparency and well-informed choices in issues of public concern.

Salient features of RTI Act 2005

Several notable characteristics of India’s Right to Information (RTI) Act contribute to the promotion of transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in governance. The RTI Act’s major characteristics are as follows:

* Right to Access Information: The RTI Act gives Indian residents the ability to seek for and get a variety of government-related information from public agencies.

* Application to Public Authorities: The Act is applicable to all central and state government departments, agencies, and ministries as well as organizations that receive significant government funding.

* Information Request Method: Citizens have three options for submitting information requests: verbally, electronically, or in writing. Public authorities must respond in a predetermined amount of time, typically 30 days.

* Proactive Disclosure: In order to avoid the necessity for formal requests from individuals, public bodies are required to proactively disclose certain kinds of information to the public.

* Information Commissions: Each state and union territory have an information commission specifically tasked with monitoring the RTI Act’s implementation, including hearing appeals, handling complaints, and enforcing sanctions for non-compliance.

* Grounds for Denial: The Act encourages openness but also specifies circumstances in which information may be withheld, including national security, business confidentiality, and individual privacy.

* Public Interest Override: Even though material is exempt, it must be released if the benefit to the public outweighs the harm that would result from keeping it a secret.

* Fees and Costs: Public agencies may charge a small cost for supplying information; the amount depends on the nature of the request and the format of the information, among other things.

* Electronic Format: Requesting and providing information in electronic form makes it much easier to obtain and disseminate.

* No Need to Specify Reason: Citizens are not need to state their purpose for requesting information, preventing pointless barriers from standing in the way of information access.

* Whistleblower Protection: By protecting individuals from victimization, the Act offers protection to those who disclose corruption or wrongdoing.

* Appeals Process: Individuals have the option of appealing to the Information Commission’s higher levels if their request for information is turned down or not handled properly.

* Support for open government: The RTI Act upholds open government values by allowing citizens to examine government activities, decisions, and policies.

* Building awareness and capacity: Public bodies are urged to run campaigns to inform people about the Act and their rights. Public information officers who purposefully conceal information or give misleading information may be subject to penalties for non-compliance.


As a crucial component of democratic governance, India’s Right to Information (RTI) Act promotes a dynamic engagement between the people and the government. The Act encourages transparency, strengthens accountability, and gives people the chance to take part actively in the democratic process by establishing a legal framework for gaining access to government information. The important clauses in it, including proactive disclosure, exclusions that are balanced against the public interest, and a strong appeals process, highlight the dedication to promoting an open and accountable government. The RTI Act continues to shine as a beacon of public empowerment and a catalyst for good change in governance practices as India’s democracy develops.


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