India is considered the largest democracy in the world. The basic feature of every democratic setup is transparency, openness and accountability. In India, public authorities or administrative authorities have a wide discretionary power, so a feeling has arisen in the mind of legislators as well as the public that this may lead to misuse of power which will ultimately result in maladministration and corruption.
For this purpose, there should be a right vested in the common people of the country to access the information regarding the conduct or act discharged by public officials, so the system of checks and balances can be maintained. Therefore, the Right to Information has emerged. Right to Information implies that the public can participate in governance by accessing the information held by administrative or public authorities regarding the function discharged by them for the public welfare.
It is not only a statutory right but also a fundamental right of a citizen to know the information related to the public act performed by public authorities. It is fundamental for good governance and makes governmental authorities more transparent and accountable towards the common people of a country. There is a proximate relation between Right to information and Administrative law as Administrative law can be defined as “a branch of public law deals with the operation performed by administrative authorities”, and Right to Information empowers the public to access information held by public authorities.
Section 18 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 talks about the powers and functions of the Information Commission. As per this provision, it is a duty of the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commission to inquire the complaints received from any person:
- who has been unable to submit a request for information to a Public Information Officer either at central or state level, either by the reason that no such officers have been appointed under this statute or the appointed officers refuse to accept his/her application;
- who has been refused to get access to the information requested under this statute;
- who has not been receiving any response for the application he/she made for information and access to information with the limited time as per this legislation;
- who has been required to pay an unreasonable amount of fee;
- who believes that the information provided by the officers are false, misleading and incomplete in nature;
- In respect of other matters related to the violation of the provisions of this Act.
Where the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions, while inquiring are satisfied with the reasonableness of the complaints, it may intimate an inquiry and the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions have the same power as of the civil court while intimating a suit under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, like to:
- summon the attendance of any person or compel any person to give written or oral pieces of evidence on oath or order him to produce the documents or things;
- require the discovery and inspection of any documents;
- receive pieces of evidence on affidavit;
- requisition any public record or copies of documents from any court or office;
- issue summons for examination of documents and witnesses;
- any other matter related to this Act.
- Other important features of the RTI Act, 2005
Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 deals with the provision related to appeal. If any person does not receive a decision for the complaint he/she made under Section 18 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 or if that person is aggrieved by the decision of Public Information Officer either at central or state level, can file an appeal to the senior officer in rank to the Public Information Officer within thirty days from the date of such decision. If the person still is not satisfied with the decision, he may file a second appeal to the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission within ninety days from the date of such decision. And the decision of the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commission would be binding on the complainant.
Section 20 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 deals with the provision related to penalties. If the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission is of opinion that the Public Information Officer either at central or state level, has not performed his duty and without the reasonable cause, reject or refuse to entertain the application made by the complainant, or with malafide intention reject or refuse the application made by the complainant, or intentionally provide false, misleading and incomplete information, such officer shall be liable to pay a penalty of Rs. 250 per day till the application is received or furnished and the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission may recommend disciplinary action against such Public Information Officer either at central or state level.
Right to Information Rules in parliament during the next session. Parliamentarians must be allowed to move motions for annulment of these laws and rules or amendments, as they are permitted to do so. If this idea fails, these amendments must be scanned by the Parliamentary Committee to find some loopholes with open opportunities created for the public to give their opinion and comments on why these amendments and rules must not be allowed to enact. If both the above-mentioned ideas fail, the public can knock the door of the court and challenge the enactment of these rules.