A Guide to Right to Information Act, 22 of 2005

India got Independence in 1947 and proclaimed itself a Republic in 1950,with a great Constitution. However, in practice, a brown elite replaced the white masters and Swaraj did not come. Mahatma Gandhi had said, Real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity to resist authority when abused. A few did acquirethe authority and retained it, but the capacity to resist misuse of authority eluded the average Citizen of India. Right To Information -RTI now empowers him to do that.
The Right To Information is derived from our fundamental right of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. If we do not have information on how our Government and Public Institutions function, we cannot express an informed opinion on it. This has been clearly stated by various Supreme Court Judgments, since 1975. We accept that the freedom of the press is an essential element for a democracy to function. It is worthwhile to understand the underlying assumption in this well entrenched belief. Why is the freedom of the media considered as one of the essential features for a democracy ? Democracy revolves around the basic idea of Citizens being at the center of governance and rule of the people. We need to define the importance of the concept of freedom of the press from this fundamental premise. It is obvious that the main reason for a free press is to ensure that Citizens are informed. This being one of the main reasons for the primacy given to the freedom of the press, it clearly flows from this, that the Citizens Right To Know is paramount. Since the Government is run on behalf of the people, they are the rightful owners who have a right to be informed directly. Justice Mathew ruled in the Raj Narain case, “In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. Their right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security.
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Govt. Directions to CHS for making documents available

GOVERNMENT DIRECTION TO CHS FOR MAKING DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS AND EVEN TO AUTHORISED 3 RD PARTY

Courtesy : J.B.Patel (Jeby), Housing Societies’ Activist, Mobile:9820538570
GOVERNMENT DIRECTION TO CHS FOR MAKING DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS AND EVEN TO AUTHORISED 3 RD PARTY

Free legal assistance for RTI users

This is a initiative which could strengthen our RTI Act significantly.

There is now legal help available for RTI users and activists who have been facing two significant problems:

  1. Threats and attacks when trying to challenge corruption and illegalities.
  2. Even when they get significant orders from the Information Commissions, these are stayed by courts. Most RTI users do not have the resources to fight these in courts. These stays continue and the information never gets revealed, or the cases are lost since the arguments for disclosure and upholding the decisions of the Information Commission may never be made before the courts.

We are lucky that Supreme Court lawyer  Colin Gonsalves heading Human Rights Law Networks (HRLN ) has agreed that RTI users are Human Rights Defenders and  offered their services without charging legal fees in such matters. This is a great step and opportunity for everyone in the country. This can help us to strengthen Right to Information and deepen our democracy.

Here is how we can use this fantastic opportunity:

  1. In case of threats or false police cases because of RTI applications approach the HRLN contact in your state. There are 24 HRNL units across the nation who can help.
  2. In case of assault approach the HRLN units and also approach the State or CentralCommission and request action as per the Central Commission’s attached resolution. RTI users should try and persuade their State commissions to pass similar resolution.
  3. When a significant order of the Information Commission is stayed, approach the HRNL unit for help. If they are convinced about the merits of the case, they will represent you in the court without charging any legal fees.

This is a great opportunity which can help RTI users and we should make proper use of it.

Please spread this note to all RTI users, email lists and organizations which use RTI.

On behalf of everyone in the RTI movement I thank Colin Gonsalves and HRLN for this outstanding offer.

Shailesh Gandhi

Attached: 1. HRLN’s units- contact details

  1. HRLN proposal
  2. CIC resolution

All my emails are in Public domain.

Tel: 91 22 26001003; 8976240798

Mera Bharat Mahaan..

Nahi Hai,

Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.

CIC resolution

HRLN proposal.

HRLN units


Claim that a file is missing or is not traceable has no legality under RTI

In a significant decision Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that unless proved that record was destroyed as per the prescribed rules of destruction/ retention policy, it is deemed that record continues to be held by public authority. The decision has been posted at out wiki Segment, for those who want to use it as a reference. You can visit out wiki article here: Missing Files under RTI Act.

Claim of file missing or not traceable has no legality as it is not recognized as exception by RTI Act. By practice ‘missing file’ cannot be read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act. It amounts to breach of Public Records Act, 1993 and punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both.

Public Authority has a duty to initiate action for this kind of loss of public record, in the form of ‘not traceable’ or ‘missing’. The Public Authority also has a duty to designate an officer as Records Officer and protect the records. A thorough search for the file, inquiry to find out public servant responsible, disciplinary action and action under Public Records Act, reconstruction of alternative file, relief to the person affected by the loss of file are the basic actions the Public Authority is legitimately expected to perform.

After all, it is quite possible that the required information may be located if a thorough search is made in which event, it could be possible to supply it to the applicant.

Fear of disciplinary action, against the person responsible for loss of the information, will also work as a deterrence against the willful suppression of the information, by vested interests. It would also be open to the Commission, to make an inquiry itself instead of directing an inquiry by the department/office concerned.

The decision is available in the CIC website here: Sh.Om Prakash Vs. Land & Building Dept, GNCTD

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Your Right to Service

The Right To Services* Act, whose official title is the ‘Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005’, was one of the demands (along with the Right to Information Act) raised by crusader Anna Hazare during his anti-corruption campaign.
Thanks to the relentless efforts of activists, an Ordinance was issued on August 29, 2003. It became an Act on 12 May, 2005 and came into effect on 1 July, 2006. Further, the Rules for the Act were framed on November 14, 2013.

Your Right to Service

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What is the difference between the RTS* and the RTI Acts?
  • What is a Citizens’ Charter?
  • What are the key features of the RTS Act?

Learn more

 


Now, govt. staff will have to declare assets annually

Its now mandatory for government servants to declare their assets annually. Section 4 of the RTI Act mandated transparency only in terms of their salary and compensation. Strangely, the new rules have not been pubicised

Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act mandates that salaries and compensationpackages of government servants including officers from Indian Administrative Service/ Indian Police Service (IAS/IPS) cadre, be put up on the website of the relevant public authority. The notification issued last week by the  Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) should come as a shock for government employees who have been amassing wealth, beyond their means. They will need to declare their assets by September this year and then by March or July, every year.

Every government employee is now required to file his annual returns pertaining toassets and liabilities, along with that of his wife and children, on a newly drafted declaration form. The notification is a sequel to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013. The rules are termed as Public Servants (Furnishing of Information and Annual Return ofAssets and Liabilities and the Limits for Exemption of Assets in Filing Returns) Rules, 2014.

As per the notification by the DoPT, this declaration has to be made by every government servant over and above other declarations as per his/ her services rules.

…………….VINITA DESHMUKH

 

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Do you know how to file an RTI plea?

How to file an RTI plea

The Act prescribes a simple procedure to obtain information. Though some public authorities have their own formats, there is no compulsion to stick to the prescribed format

Step 1: Identify the department you want information from. Some subjects fall under the purview of State governments or local authority such as the municipal administration/panchayat, while others are handled by the Central government

Step 2: On a sheet of white paper, write out the application by hand, or type it, in English, Hindi or the official language of the area. You can also ask the public information officer to put it in writing

Step 3: Address the application to the State/Central Public Information Officer. Write the name of the office from which you seek information, and the complete, correct address. Clearly mention ‘Seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005’ in your subject line

Step 4: State your request in the form of specific, detailed questions, and mention the period/year your request falls into. Ask for documents or extracts of documents, if required. To obtain documents, the applicant has to make a payment of Rs. 2 per page

Step 5: Pay Rs. 10 to file the plea. This can be done in the form of cash, money order, bank draft or a court fee stamp. The stamp should be affixed to the application. Applicants below the poverty line (BPL) need not make the payment but have to attach a copy of the BPL certificate along with the application

Step 6: Provide your full name and address, contact details, email address and sign the application clearly. Put in the date and the name of your town

Step 7: Take a photocopy of the application and keep one with you for future reference. Send your application by post or hand it in personally to the department concerned. Don’t forget to get an acknowledgement

Step 8: The law mandates that information be provided in 30 days. If this does not happen, you can file an appeal. The first appeal should be addressed to ‘The Appellate Authority’ with the name of the department and the address. The appellate authority is mandated to revert in 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal. If the Appellate authority fails to reply, further appeals lie with the Information Commission, the Chief Information Commissioner, State/Central Information Commission

Compiled by Zubeda Hamid; graphics by Satwik Gade

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