RIGHT TO INFORMATION: A Right to be Exploited
We are all well aware of our Fundamental Rights, but there is one more right we should be well aware of and that is the Right To Information.
According to this right “An act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
Right to Information has been a part of the Indian Constitution since 2005. With the help of this Right, any citizen can find information on any topic related to the state or central concern.
In a country where the Government has an annual budget of more than Rs. 1 Lakh crore and of which– according to the Planning Commission’s own admission– only 30% reaches the beneficiaries, the RTI Act is proving to be a catalyst in transforming governance.
Across India, more than 75 lakh RTI applications were filed in 2008, and this year the number could get even bigger.
RTI has been exploited by many. In 2006, Mujibur Rehman, a labourer in Chhattisgarh, exposed irregularities in the use of money from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
In 2007, residents of Muzzafarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh forced authorities to construct a road that was for some time shown as completed in government records without being built.
In 2008, in Delhi, the municipal corporation suspended 19 engineers because the quality of roads they constructed was found to be substandard.
In April 2007, B.M. Shivakumar’s RTI query exposed a land scam in Bangalore.
For the first time in 2008, the income tax department revealed the statement of accounts of six political parties in response to an RTI application. The figures revealed that in 2006-07, political parties received 309 crore from donations but they disclosed sources of funds only for Rs.15 crore.
There have been many such cases. Now lets have a look at HOW TO FILE AN RTI APPLICATION?
AN INDIAN citizen can seek information under RTI Act, 2005, on a simple paper addressed to the public information officer (PIO) of the concerned department.
THE APPLICANT must pay the RTI fee of Rs. 10 per application, in cash, through bank draft or postal order along with the application.
THE PIO must provide the information within 30 days after receipt of application, and within 48 hrs if information sought conerns a persons life nad liberty.
THE PIO can ask for photocopy charges of Rs 2 per page for the information being provided.
NO RESPONSE? HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO
IF INFORMATION is not provided within stipulated 30 days, the applicant can file an appeal with the appellate authority of the department, from which information was sought. No fees to be paid.
IF YOU ARE not satisfied with the appellate authority’s decision, you can file a second appeal with the state information commssion or the central information commission, depending upon the jurisdiction of the information sought.
THE ACT GIVES the information commissions the power to impose a penalty of maximum of up to Rs 25,000 against the PIO if information has been denied deliberately.