Right to Information Act, 2005 – Jurisprudence, Interpretation & General Laws Important Questions

Right to Information Act, 2005 – Jurisprudence, Interpretation & General Laws Important Questions

Question 1.
Specify the manner in which requests may be made by a citizen to the authority for obtaining information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. [Dec 2008 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
Request for information [Section 6(1)]: A person, who desires to obtain any information shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to

  • The Central PIO or State PIO of the concerned public authority;
  • The Central Assistant PIO or State Assistant PIO specifying the particulars of the information sought. §*

However, where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer (PIO) or State PIO, as the case may be, shall render all f reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.

Reason for obtaining information is not required to be given [Section 6(2)]:
An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

Procedure for obtaining information held by two or more public authorities [Section 6(3)]: Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for information –

  • which is held by another public authority or
  • the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority the public authority, to which such application is made shall transfer the application and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer.

The transfer of an application shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than 5 days from the date of receipt of the application.

Question 2.
Specify the categories of information that have been exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Or
Explain any four categories of ‘information that have been exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005. [Dec. 2019 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
Exemption from disclosure of information [Section 8]: Notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen:
1. Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sover¬eignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offense.

2. The information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court.

3. Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

4. Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

5. The information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

6. Information received in confidence from foreign Government.

7. Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.

8. The information which would impede the process of investigation or appre¬hension or prosecution of offenders.

9. Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Min¬isters, Secretaries, and other officers. However, the decisions of the Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over. Those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed.

10. The information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central or State PIO or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. However, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature | shall not be denied to any person.

Question 3.
Explain: State the salient features of the Right to Information Act, 2005. [June 2012 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
Salient features of the Right to Information Act, 2005 are as under:
1. Any citizen may request information from a ‘public authority’ which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30 days.

2. Citizens have a right to – request any information (as defined); take copies of documents; inspect documents, works, and records; take certified sam¬ples of materials of work; and obtain information in the form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode.

3. The Act relaxes the Official Secrets Act, 1889, and various other special laws that restricted information disclosure in India. In other words, the Act explicitly overrides the Official Secrets Act and other laws to the extent of any inconsistency.

4. Applicant can obtain Information within 30 days from the date of request in a normal case. In a matter of the life or liberty of a person, information can be obtained within 48 hours from the time of the request.

5. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request information formally.

6. The Act, in particular, requires every public authority to publish 16 categories of information. This includes the particulars of its organization, functions, and duties; powers and duties of its officers and employees; procedure followed in the decision making process; norms set for discharge of its functions; rules, regulations, instructions, manuals, and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; etc.

7. The Act enumerates the types of information that are exempted from disclosure. However, this exempted information or those exempted under the Official Secrets Act can be disclosed if the public interest in disclo¬sure overweighs the harm to the protected interest. Also, the exempted information(s) would cease to be exempted if 20 years have elapsed after the occurrence of the incident to which the information relates.

8. The penalty for refusal to receive an application for information or for not providing the information is ₹ 250 per day but the total amount of penalty should not exceed ₹ 25.000.

9. If an applicant is not supplied information within the prescribed time of 30 days or 48 hours, as the case may be, or is not satisfied with the infor¬mation furnished to him, he may prefer an appeal to the first appellate authority who is an officer senior in rank to the PIO. If still not satisfied the applicant may prefer a second appeal with the Central Information Commission/State Information Commission within 90 days from the date on which the decision should have been made by the first appellate authority or was actually received by the appellant.

Question 4.
Specify the categories of information that have been exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005. [June 2014 (5 Marks)]
Answer:
Exemption from disclosure of information [Section 8]: Notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen:
1. Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sover¬eignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offense.

2. Information that has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court.

3. Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

4. Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

5. The information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

6. Information received in confidence from foreign Government.

7. Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.

8. The information which would impede the process of investigation or appre¬hension or prosecution of offenders.

9. Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Min¬isters, Secretaries, and other officers. However, the decisions of the Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over. Those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed.

10. The information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central or State PIO or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. However, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature | shall not be denied to any person.

Question 5.
Certain organizations have been exempted from the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005, subject to certain conditions. Which are those organizations? What type of information these organizations are bound to provide? [Dec 2014 (6 Marks)]
Answer:
As per Section 24(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the Act shall not apply to the intelligence and security organizations specified in the 2nd Schedule, being organizations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organizations to that Government.

However, the exclusion is not absolute and these organizations have to provide information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations.

In case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission, and such information shall be provided within 45 days from the date of the receipt of the request.

Question 6.
Amar is a citizen of India and lives in Delhi with his family. He makes an application to the Public Information Officer (PIO) under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and completes all the formalities. The information sought relates to Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers. The PIO rejects the application. Has Amar any right to go to the court or to the Central Information Commission against the decision of the PIO? Give your answer quoting the relevant provisions of law. [Dec 2013 (6 Marks)]
Answer:
As per Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 information relating to “cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers” is exempted i.e. to say such information cannot be supplied. However, the decisions of the Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over.

As per facts given in the case, Amar had made an application to supply information that cannot be supplied u/s 8 of the Act, and hence the Public Information Officer (PIO) has the right to reject such application. Since the application is liable to be rejected, Amar cannot file an appeal against the lawful rejection of the application.

Question 7.
What do you understand by ‘Public Information Officer’ (PIO) under the Right to Information Act, 2005? What are the duties of PIO under the said Act? [Dec 2011 (5 Marks)]
Answer:
Public Information Officers (PIOs) are officers designated by the public | authorities in all administrative units or offices under it to provide information | to the citizens requesting for information under the Act. Any officer, whose assistance has been sought by the PIO for the proper discharge of his or her duties, shall render all assistance and for the purpose of contraventions of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a PIO.

Duties of a PIO: PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and where the request cannot be made in writing, to render reasonable assistance to the person to reduce the same in writing. If the information requested is held by or its subject matter is closely connected with the function of another public authority, the PIO shall transfer, within 5 days, the request to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately.

PIO may seek the assistance of any other officer for the proper discharge of his/her duties. PIO, on receipt of a request, shall as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Section 8 or Section 9.

Where the information requested concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.

If the PIO fails to give a decision on the request within the period specified, he shall be deemed to have refused the request.

Where a request has been rejected, the PIO shall communicate to the requester

  1. the reasons for such rejection,
  2. the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred, and
  3. the particulars of the Appellate Authority.

PIO shall provide information in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the Public Authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.

If allowing partial access, the PIO shall give notice to the applicant, informing:

  1. That only part of the record requested, after severance of the record con¬taining information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided;
  2. The reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material question of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
  3. The name and designation of the person giving the decision;
  4. The details of the fees calculated by him or her and the amount of fee which the applicant is required to deposit; and
  5. His or her rights with respect to review of the decision regarding non-dis¬closure of part of the information, the amount of fee charged, or the form of access provided.

If the information sought has been supplied by a third party or is treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO shall give written notice to the third party within 5 days from the receipt of the request. Third-party must be given a chance to make a representation before the PIO within 10 days from the date of receipt of such notice.

Question 8.
Discuss in brief the composition and the powers of the Central Information Commission (CIC) given under the Right to Information Act, 2005. [Dec 2018 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
Constitution of Central Information Commission [Section 12(1)]: The Central Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette constitute a body to be known as the Central Information Commission (CIC) to exercise the powers conferred on, and to perform the functions assigned to, it under this Act.

Composition of Central Information Commission [Section 12(2)]: The CIC shall consist of:

  • The Chief Information Commissioner.
  • A such number of Central Information Commissioners, not exceeding 10, as may be deemed necessary.

Powers [Section 12(4)]: The general superintendence, direction, and management of the affairs of the CIS shall vest in 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 CIC autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under the Act.

Question 9.
Write a short note on Penalties that can be imposed on a Public Information Officer under section 20 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 [June 2011 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
The penalty [Section 20]: The RTI Act imposes stringent penalties on a Public Information Officer (PIO) for failing to provide information. Every PIO will be liable for a fine of ₹ 250 per day, up to a maximum of ₹ 25,000 for:

  • Not accepting an application.
  • Delaying information release without reasonable cause.
  • Mala fidelity denying information.
  • Knowingly giving incomplete, incorrect, misleading information.
  • Destroying information that has been requested.
  • Obstructing furnishing of information in any manner.

The Central or State Information Commission will have the power to impose this penalty. They can also recommend disciplinary action for violation of the law against the PIO for persistently failing to provide information without any reasonable cause within the specified period.

Question 10.
Bimal made an application in writing with a prescribed fee to the Public Information Officer (PIO) for obtaining the information which is permissible under the relevant statute. The PIO neither provided the required information nor rejected the application of Bimal for providing the required information although a period of 45 days elapsed from the date of submitting the aforesaid application to the PIO. Bimal wants to file a suit in the civil court for not providing the required information to him. Advise Bimal. [Dec 2012 (5 Marks)]
Answer:
As per Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in Section 7, or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central or State Public Information Officer may within 30 days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central or State Public Information Officer in each public authority.

However, such an officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of 30 days if he is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

As per Section 23 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, no Court shall entertain any suit, application, or another proceeding in respect of any order made under the Act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under the Act.

Considering the above provisions, Bimal cannot file a suit in civil court for not providing the required information to him. He is advised to file the appeal before to officer senior in rank to the Central or State Public Information Officer who refused or failed to give the required information.

Question 11.
When is the Central Information Commission/State Information Commission duty-bound to receive complaints from any person? [Dec 2013 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
The Central Information Commission/State Information Commission has a duty to receive complaints from any person who has not been able to submit an information request because a PIO has not been appointed;

  • who has been refused information that was requested;
  • who has received no response to his/her information request within the specified time limits;
  • who thinks the fees charged are unreasonable;
  • who thinks information given is incomplete or false or misleading; and
  • any other matter relating to obtaining information under this law

Question 12.
State in brief the powers of the Information Commission under the Right to Information Act, 2005. [June 2014 (4 Marks)]
Answer:
Information Commission has the following powers under the Right to Information Act, 2005:
Power to make inquiry [Section 18(2)]: Where the Central or State Information Commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof.

Powers of Civil Court [Section 18(3)]: The Central or State Information Commission while inquiring into any matter shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in respect of the following matters:

  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things.
  • Requiring the discovery and inspection of documents.
  • Receiving evidence on affidavit.
  • Requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office.
  • Issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents.
  • Any other matter which may be prescribed.

Power to examine the records [Section 18(4)]: The Central or State Information Commission may examine any record to which the Act applies which is under the control of the public authority and no such record may be withheld from it on any grounds.

Question 13.
Explain the provisions for appeal under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Answer:
Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 makes the following provisions for the ‘appeal’:
Who can Appeal: Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in Section 7, or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central or State Public Information Officer may within 30 days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central or State Public Information Officer in each public authority.

However, such an officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of 30 days if he is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

Appeal by the third party: Where an appeal is preferred against an order made by a Central or State Public Information Officer u/s 11 to disclose third party information, the appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within 30 days from the date of the order.

Second Appeal: A second appeal against the decision shall lie within 90 days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central or State Information Commission.

However, the Central or State Information Commission may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of 90 days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

The opportunity of being heard by a third party: If the decision of the Central or State Public Information Officer, against which an appeal is preferred relates to information of a third party, the Central or State Information Commission shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.

The burden of proof: In any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Central or State Public Information Officer, who denied the request.

The time limit for disposal of appeal: An appeal shall be disposed of within 30 days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of 45 days from the date of filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing.

Decision: The decision of the Central or State Information Commission shall be binding.

Bar of jurisdiction of Courts [Section 23]: No Court shall entertain any suit, ‘l application or another proceeding in respect of any order made under the Act 1 and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under the Act.

Jurisprudence, Interpretation & General Laws Questions and Answers

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