AEES - The Right to Information Act – 2005
The short title of the legislation has been changed from ‘The Freedom of Information Act’ to ‘The Right to Information Act’.
The Act was enacted on 15th June, 2005. The following provisions have come into force with immediate effect-
- Obligations of Public Authorities
- Designation of PIOs and APIOs
- Constitution of Central Information Commission (CIC) and State information Commission (SIC)
- Non-applicability of the Act to Intelligence and Security Organizations
- Power to make rules to carry out the provisions of the Act
The other sections come into force on the 12th Oct, 2005 (120th day of its enactment).
- Informed citizenry and transparency of information.
- To curtail corruption.
Under this Act every citizen has the right to - inspect works, documents and records; take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; take certified samples of material; obtain information in the form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes and video-cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
Public Authority, its duty and Obligations:
In our case, the Competitive Authority of our Society (AEES) is the Public Authority.
Within 100 days of the enactment, every Public Authority shall designate Public Information Officers (PIO) and Assistant Public Information Officers (APIO) in all administrative units or offices under it as may be necessary to provide information to persons requesting for the same.
This Act casts an obligation on Public Authorities to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated;
To publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;
To provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons;
To provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communication, including Internet.
The public authorities have the power to make the following rules – to carryout the provisions of this Act; the cost of the medium or print cost price of the materials; the fee payable; and any other matter which is required to be or may be prescribed.
Applications is to be submitted in writing or electronically, with prescribed fee to PIO or APIO. (free of cost if the PIO fails to comply with the prescribed time limit)
The PIO will receive the requests and provide information within prescribed time limit.
APIO will receive applications/requests and forward the same to the appropriate PIO.
The time limit to provide information:
- 30 days from the date of application.
- 48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person.
- 35 days where the request is submitted to and forwarded by an APIO.
- 40 days if the interests of a third party are involved (45 incase of forwarded through APIO).
- Failure to provide information within the specified period is a deemed refusal.
Disposal of Request
Information in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force should be provided to the applicant.
Information shall ordinarily be provided 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.
Exemption from disclosure
Certain categories of information have been exempted from disclosure. The categories, by way of illustration, include, information like to affect security of the State, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, detection and investigation of offences, public order, conduct of international relations and Cabinet papers. Trade of commercial secrets, information the disclosure of which would cause breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature and personnel information which has no relationship with public activity and could cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of any person, are also exempted from disclosure. However, exemptions provided are not absolute and withholding of information must be balanced against disclosure in the public interest. Information to be released even if harm is shown to the public authority if the public benefit in knowing the information outweighs the harm that may be caused
The Act contains a provision for reveal of information, which is otherwise, exempted from disclosure under section8 on completion of 20 years after the completion of the event.
Severability (Partial disclosure)
Where access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information, which is exempt from disclosure, then, access may be provided to that part of the record, which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.
Third Party Information:
Where information/record or part there of which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, and the PIO intends to disclose the same, then such third party shall be given notice within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that his/her intention to disclose the information and invite the third party to make oral/written submission and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information.
Note: The third party shall be given 10 days time to make representation against the proposed disclosure. The third party shall have a right to appeal against the decision.
Central Information Commission
- Central Information commission to be constituted by the Central Government through a Gazette Notification;
- Commission includes One Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 information Commissioners (IC) who will be appointed by the President of India;
- Oath of office will be administered by the President of India according to the form set out in the First Schedule;
- Commission shall have its Headquarters in Delhi. Other offices may be established in other parts of the country with the approval of the Central Government;
- Commission will exercise its powers without being subjected to directions by any other authority. (u/s – 12)
The officer senior in rank to the PIO in the concerned Public Authority is the Appellate Authority.
The Act provides a two-tier Appellate Forum. First appeal to the Appellate Authority (within 30 days). The second appeal to be made to the Commission. (within 90 days)
A penalty of Rs.250/- per day subject to the maximum of Rs.25,000/-. CIC also may recommend disciplinary action against PIO under the service rules.
Protection of action taken in good faith
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or any rule made there under
Monitoring and reporting
CIC and SIC will monitor the implementation of the Act. Every Public Authority will produce an annual statistical report to assess the implementation of the Act.
Powers and functions of Information Commissions.
- The CIC/SIC has a duty to receive complaints from any person.
- Power to order inquiry if there are reasonable grounds.
- CIC/SIC will have powers of Civil Court.
- All records covered by this law (including those covered by exemptions) must be given to CIC/SIC during inquiry for examination.
- Power to secure compliance of its decisions from the Public Authority.
Some Organisations are exempted from this Act.