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Know Your Rights: The Right To Information Act

Introduction

As a citizen of a country, one must be aware of the basic features of the place where they reside, including the rights and duties provided by the constitution-makers. Laws were made by the people for the protection of the people. Ubi Jus, Ibi Remedium (Where there is a law, there is a remedy) is a well-supported legal maxim to the above statement. One remedy is the Right to Information (RTI), which is also known as the backbone of democracy.

Why was there a need for the RTI?

RTI is a right given to the public to be aware of the working of the three wings of the parliament, i.e. the Legislative, executive and judiciary. One of the Indian Constitution’s salient features states that these organs work independently, maintaining checks and balances on each other. 

Under the RTI, people have the right to know about the government’s monetary affairs, whether they have spent on the said things or not. The money used by them in any governmental work is the money of the citizens collected through taxes. 

Do you know the first State to introduce the RTI act was Tamil Nadu in April 1996? Then in 2005, with the assent of president APJ Abdul Kalam, the RTI act was passed and came into force on 12 October, 2005. After its passing, on an average, 4,800 RTIs were filed daily.

How can an RTI be Filed?   

It is easy to file an RTI and anyone can file it against any governmental institution. Now, an RTI can be filed in writing as well as online. An illiterate person can also approach and easily file it. It is the right of an individual. Therefore, a public officer will help people who cannot read or write. 

For sending an RTI offline, a person can write or get the problem typed as there is no specific format. For central government departments, one needs to pay ₹10 for every application. The mode of payment may vary from government to government. While applying in person, some organisations accept cash while some don’t.

Who can file an RTI Application?

An RTI application can be filed by any Indian citizen in search of public information. Overseas Citizens of India and Persons of Indian Origin can also seek information under certain sections.

Answer and Punishment

Mumbai Society And Daily Life
Model of Adarsh Society depicting the infamous land scam displayed as a theme of Christmas 2011 by Gopchar society at Worli in Mumbai. (Photo by Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The next step is answering. Every government organisation is needed to appoint one employee as a public information officer (PIO). Once a department gets an RTI request, it is the PIO’s responsibility to furnish the information to the applicant within 30 days. 

Failing to do so means a monetary fine can be imposed on the PIO. The longer a PIO makes an applicant wait, the more the penalty levied on them. There have been instances where PIOs have been asked to cough up an amount in thousands as fine. The answer to it must be given in 30 days, only in certain cases, it may be allowed for more.

Exceptions of RTI

There are 22 institutions exempted from the RTI. But all these entities are related to the country’s defence and intelligence, such as RAW, BSF, CRPF, CISF, Intelligence Bureau, National Security Guard, etc. There are some other situations when an RTI cannot be filed, like any court decision that comes under the nation’s importance or secrecy. Matters related to some special subjects can’t be disclosed due to national or international concerts.

Two major influential Cases

  1. 2G Scam: selling the 2G spectrum in an uncustomary way, basically to benefit only a few companies. An RTI was filed and the scam was caught. This is the first example which states the power of an RTI, it creates a burden on the people to maintain their records and to work in a decent way or without doing illegal work.
  2. Adarsh Society Scam: A six-storey building was built for Kargil war heroes and the martyr’s families, but this eventually ended up as a 31 storey building. An RTI was filed, which uncovered that the building was illegally conceived and all the maps were passed and projects were approved by bribing the respective authority. This is the second example where the RTI showed its potential and showed an inclination to the defaulters to do their work in a prescribed manner.

Conclusion

In India, the RTI has improved our situation since the act’s commencement, but we can’t say that corruption has gone away from our country. There are some departments where corruption has decreased with time, but it is at a petite rate. 

There are instances of some institutions or leaders where special committees must check their working. India is a country with the most corruption rate. Therefore, some enactment of strict laws is an urgent need in order to save our country. RTI is an example, but we need more similar laws to make our country run towards success.

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