M A I N   N E W S

You have right to information
Tribune News Service

New Delhi October 12
The Right to Information Act (RTI), that gives legal rights to people to seek information from the government and curb corruption, came into force today, placing India among 55 countries that have such a legislation.

The Act, passed by Parliament in the last Budget Session and given Presidential assent on June 15, is aimed at bringing transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities.

The new law will not be applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. The legislation is aimed at curbing corruption and inefficiency in the government at various levels as it brings within its ambit Central and State administrations, panchayats, local bodies and non-governmental organisations getting public funds.

Under the Act, the authorities are required to respond to queries in as little as 48 hours, on issues related to life and liberty.

The Act, however, exempts security and intelligence organisations from its purview. Matters relating to security and strategic issues, the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, para-military forces and other bodies dealing with the country’s security will therefore not fall in the public domain.

The law promises prompt accountability and transparency as it provides for hefty fines and disciplinary action against erring officials.

According to the Act, the Centre has to appoint a Central Information Commission comprising a Chief Information Commissioner and Central Information Commissioners, not exceeding ten, as may be deemed necessary.

By empowering the Central and State Commissions to act as appellate authorities and by vesting them with the powers of a civil court, these bodies have been given the teeth to discourage public authorities from refusing to part with information.

To ensure that the information sought is provided quickly, the Act makes it obligatory for the Public Information Officer to provide the information requested for, as permissible under the Act, within 30 days.

The enforcement of the Act fulfills the promise made by the Congress led UPA government in its Common Minimum Programme (CMP).

The new legislation is seen as a radical improvement on the Freedom of Information Act, 2002. The new legislation unequivocally confers on all citizens the right to access information and, correspondingly, makes the dissemination of such information an obligation for all public authorities.

The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee chaired by the Prime Minister.

The general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs of the Central Information Commission shall vest with the Chief Information Commissioner, who shall be assisted by the Information Commissioners, and may exercise all such powers and do all such acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Central Information Commission autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this Act.

The name of Wajahat Habibullah, a retired IAS officer from Jammu and Kashmir, is understood to have been cleared but a formal appointment is yet to be made.

Similarly, the state governments will also appoint State Information Officers.

The Act has a provision of penalty to ensure that the government officers and all public authorities give priority to requests for information from citizens.

Deterrent penalties have been recommended for failure to provide information in time or for refusing to accept application for information or for giving incorrect information.


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