16 May 2013
The Indian government has invited “write ups” describing best practices on implementation of Right to Information Act, with prize money.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said it will publish a compendium of best practices on the RTI being…
10 May 2013
The Indian government’s recent guidelines on proactive disclosure are diluted, right to information activists said May 7.
Members of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) including Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey and Venkatesh Nayak said that the government…
Read more news….
freedom of information
Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)
The Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that access to government information was an essential part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.(1) The Court ruled in 2002 that voters have a right to know information about candidates for elected offices and ordered the Election Commission to make candidates publish information about criminal records, assets, liabilities and educational qualifications.(2)
The Right to Information Act was approved by the Parliament in May 2005 and signed by the President in June 2005.(3) Certain preliminary clauses went into effect immediately, but the entire Act came into force in October 2005. The Act replaces the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 which was adopted in January 2003 but never came into force.(4)
Under the national Act, all Indian citizens have a right to ask to ask for information not only from Central Government public authorities, but also from public authorities under the jurisdiction of the states. This includes local level bodies (called panchayats). The Act covers all public authorities set up by the Constitution or statute, as well as bodies controlled or substantially financed by the Government or non-government organizations which are substantially funded by the Government. Citizens can not only request to inspect or copy information, but the Act also allows them to make an application to inspect public works and take samples.
Applications must be submitted to a Public Information Officer (PIO) who must be appointed in every unit of a public authority. Applications may also be sent to an Assistant PIO, who should be appointed at local levels, who will forward the request to the relevant PIO. The PIO must respond in writing within thirty days or if the request concerns the life or liberty of a person, within 48 hours.
The Act includes a list of exemptions, although they are all subject to a blanket override whereby information may be released if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest. Exemptions cover disclosures that would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic or economic interests of the State, relations with foreign States, would lead to incitement of an offence, has been expressly forbidden to be published by a court or tribunal, could constitute a contempt of court; would endanger the life or safety of a person or identify a source used by law enforcement bodies, would impede an investigation or apprehension or prosecution of an offender, would cause a breach of parliamentary privilege; Cabinet papers (although materials relied upon must be released after decisions are made), commercial confidence information, trade secrets or intellectual property where disclosure would harm the competitive position of a third party, information available due to a fiduciary relationship, information obtained in confidence from a foreign government and personal information which has no relationship to any public activity or which would cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
An internal appeal can be made against decisions to a nominated person who is senior in rank to the PIO. A second appeal can be made to newly established Information Commissions at the Central and State levels or alternatively, a complaint can be made directly to these Commissions. Information Commissions have a broad remit to hear cases related to any matter relating to access under the Act. They have investigative powers and can make binding decisions. Information Commissions can make any order necessary to ensure compliance with the Act (including requiring a public authority to publish information, appoint PIOs, produce annual reports and make changes to record management), and can also order compensation and impose penalties.
The Act attempts to bar appeals to the courts, but as the right to information is a constitutional right, it would appear that citizens still have the right to go to the High Court or Supreme Court if they feel their right has been infringed.
Fines and disciplinary proceedings can be ordered for a range of offences, including refusing to access an application, delaying providing information (for which a daily penalty can be imposed), provision of false, misleading or incomplete information and obstruction of information officials.
The Act also imposes duties to monitor and promote the law. All public authorities must proactive publish and disseminate a very wide range of information, including details of the services they provide, their organizational structure, their decision-making norms and rules, opportunities for public consultation, recipients of government subsidies, licences, concessions, or permits, categories of information held, and contact details of PIOs. Public authorities must also maintain indexes of all records and over time computerize and network their records. Information Commissions must monitor implementation and produce annual reports. To the extent that resources are available, Governments must also provide training for officials and conduct public education activities, including publishing a User’s Guide.
Implementation of the Right to Information Act has been varied across the country. The Central Government, which sponsored the Act, has been relatively active, although it was slow in putting in place systems, in ensuring fulsome proactive disclosure and in setting up the Central Information Commission. To date, more than 20 states have appointed Information Commissioners, although actually setting up and providing adequate resources to the Information Commission offices has often been slow. Applications are being made throughout the country, with varying levels of success. It has been reported that local panchayat officials have been particularly slow in coming to terms with their duties under the new law.
Although the Official Secrets Act, 1923, which is based on the 1911 UK OSA, has not been repealed, the Right to Information Act specifically states that its provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent in the OSA or any other law.(5) The OSA prohibits the unauthorized collection or disclosure of secret information and is frequently used against the media.(6)
The Public Records Act, 1993 sets a thirty year rule for access to archives.(7) The Right to Information Act specifically states that information shall be provided under the Act after 20 years, but it then specifies that certain exemptions will still apply beyond this period.
At the time the national Right to Information Act was passed, eight states and one territory had passed their own access laws, largely in response to pressure from local activists fighting corruption. Acts were passed in Tamil Nadu, (1997) Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002), Assam (2003), Madhya Pradesh (2003) and Jammu & Kashmir (2004). Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh also adopted Codes of Practice and Executive Orders on Access to Information.(8) With the passage of the national Act, the state laws are either lapsing or being specifically repealed. However, the Jammu and Kashmir Act will continue to operate in respect of state public authorities, because the Central Government cannot legislate for Jammu and Kashmir due to its special constitutional status.
2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results – India
3 May 2013
The Indian government is close to choosing who will conduct a major review of the fight to information law.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has shortlisted 16 organizations for the “360 degree study,” according to a report, with…
26 April 2013
The Indian government has issued guidelines for the proactive disclosure of information, but missed a few key items, according to a leading Indian advocacy group.
The guidelines were prepared the Department of Personnel and Training with advice from a task…
21 April 2013
The chief information commissioner of the Indian state of Maharashtra has ordered the disclosure of the names of prisoners awaiting trial, so-called “undertrials,” who have served half or more of the maximum prison term specified for the charges they face.…
19 April 2013
By Shailesh Gandhi
Gandhi is a former commissioner at the central information commission. This article is reprinted with permission from GovernanceNow, where it was first run on April 17. “GovernanceNow is a multi-media initiative for participatory reportage and analyses related…
17 April 2013
The Indian Supreme Court on April 16 stayed a controversial decision ordering that retired or sitting judges be appointed to lead the Central Information Commission and state commissions.
The order by Justices A. K. Patnaik and Arjan K. Sikri also…
12 April 2013
A key Indian agency has opened a website for the submission of right to information requests and fees.
The portal — http://www.rtionline.gov.in/ — has been created by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the agency which leads on the…
7 March 2013
Right to information laws “will accomplish little” in poor countries, according to the author of new World Bank study, “unless concerted efforts are made to address the broader enabling environment, and appropriate capacity building strategies are devised.”
18 February 2013
Women in India are not using the Right to Information Act as much as they should, according to persons quoted in an article on the subject by Partha Sarathi Biswas in the Indian Express.
One indicator cited is the low…
4 February 2013
The high court of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has ordered the government to seek applications in order to fill the 10 vacant posts of the State Information Commission, according to articles in the Daily Pioneer and the Jagran…
1 February 2013
The Indian Supreme Court on Jan. 18 rejected as “frivolous” a petition from the Karnataka information commissioner challenging a Karnataka High Court order that overturning the commissioner’s decision, according to an article in The Deccan Herald.
The order has “serious…
14 December 2012
India’s Central Information Commission has ruled that the Office of the Attorney is not a public authority under Right to Information Act.
The CIC order of Dec. 10 said the Attorney General’s position is unique because “he is standalone counsel…
6 December 2012
The Times of India asked the office of the prime minister to disclose the basis for PM Manmohan Singh’s October criticisms of the Right to Information Act, but has been told there are no such records, according to an article…
26 November 2012
The Indian Supreme Court on Nov. 20 agreed to hear the government’s request that it review its Sept. 13 decision that among other things would require that information commissions be composed of retired judges. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)
6 November 2012
India’s chief information commissioner, Satyendra Mishra, has ruled that even an agency exempt from the right to information law may not withhold information related to corruption by public officials or human rights violations.
In his Nov. 2 order, Mishra mandated…
2 November 2012
The Indian Cabinet Nov. 1 pulled back from a six-year-old proposal to dilute the Right to Information Act.
The action was a relief to activists. The main effect of the changes, planned back in 2006, would have been to restrict…
29 October 2012
By Osama Manzar
Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chairman of the Manthan Award. He is a member of the working group for Internet proliferation and governance, ministry of communications and information technology. Follow him on Twitter…
15 October 2012
Indian right to information activists have roundly condemned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent criticisms of the RTI law, but one major media outlet reports that the government is preparing amendments to change the law to prevent alleged misuse.
12 October 2012
The Indian government has appealed a controversial Supreme Court ruling that that has roiled Indian information commissions by mandating more involvement of trained judges in the process.
The announcement came Oct. 11, preceding an Oct. 12 speech by Prime Minister…
11 October 2012
The Central Information Commission has ordered the Delhi assembly to provide more information about its proceedings.
Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit directed the assembly secretariat to publish laws that pass on its website in Hindi and English and to consider providing live…
1 October 2012
More than a quarter of India’s 28 Information Commissions have halted work in the aftermath of the top court’s recent ruling that retired judges must be on commission panels, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
14 September 2012
The Supreme Court of India has ordered that all Chief Information Commissioners must be retired judges and that each case must be heard by a two-member bench, with one judicial member and one non-judicial member.
The Central Information Commission (CIC),…
7 September 2012
The Jammu and Kashmir government in India on Aug. 30 passed new rules that critics say undercut the state right to information act.
One main effect will be to reduce the information commission’s ability to require information from government departments,…
31 August 2012
The Indian government has decided to promote the Right to Information Act to school children.
A message will be displayed inside the back cover of some textbooks, according to direction from the National Council of Education, Research and Training. An…
13 August 2012
The Indian government has placed a limit of 500 words on the length of applications under the Right to Information Act and has established a new form for making appeals to the Central Information Commission.
The new rule, issued July…
8 August 2012
RTI activist and National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy has written to the chief minister of the state of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, to protest proposed amendments to the RTI law.
The state government in January proposed that applications being…
3 August 2012
The government of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Cabinet voted on July 31 to exclude the anticorruption agency Lokayukta from the scope of the Right to Information Act, according to Indian activists and media reports.
“This is one of…
6 July 2012
The Indian Right to Information Act “is a galvanizing force that has acquired a momentum that none of us saw coming, and which is going to be impossible to stop,” according to Aruna Roy, an instrumental force behind the law’s…
6 July 2012
By Shonali Ghosal
Ghosal is a correspondent with Tehelka where this article first appeared.
Last month, on 9 June, Ratnakar Gaikwad, former chief secretary, Maharashtra, was sworn in as the state’s Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). Curiously, his appointment came just…
2 July 2012
Shailesh Ghandhi, who will retire June 6 as an Indian Information Commissioner, is warning of threats facing the right to information law.
In an interview with CNN IBN, Gandhi said, “I believe that so far the RTI Act has achieved…
29 June 2012
India’s Central Information Commission has ruled that Cabinet documents should be disclosed after a bill had been offered in Parliament and that requesters do not need to wait until after Parliament acts.
The Commission ordered the Department of Atomic Energy…
21 June 2012
Donations made by the Indian president using public funds are covered by the Indian right to information law, the Delhi High Court held May 14.
The court directed the President’s Secretariat to provide the information, rejecting objections that it would impinge…
1 June 2012
Indian Sports Minister Ajay Maken has taken his campaign to bring the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) under the purview of the Right to Information Act to the Central Information Commission, according to media reports.
“We have appealed to the CIC,” he…
21 May 2012
The Indian government has requested proposals to establish a call center and web portal to allow citizens to make right to information requests by telephone and online.
The Department of Personnel and Training May 14 sought requests from IT firms…
10 May 2012
Most Indian state information commissioners are retired civil servants and many posts are vacant, according to fact-filled critical report by the Access to Information Programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, based in New Delhi.
Also, less than half of…
27 April 2012
India’s Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has written to the Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia, to object to his recent comments critical of the right to information law.
The chief justice was quoted as saying the law was “good”…
27 April 2012
An Indian State Information Commission April 24 ruled that the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited is a public authority under the 2009 Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act.
The bank was created by legislative act, is majority-owned by the…
12 March 2012
India has made it easier for Indian citizens living abroad to seek online information from the government under the Right to Information Act.
The banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, has allowed sale of electronic postal orders to Indian…
9 March 2012
A controversial bill in India to ease regulation on biotechnology products includes an exemption from the right to information law.
Debate over the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) primarily concerns issues such as the safety of genetically modified…
2 March 2012
Three new information commissioners were sworn in on Feb. 28 in New Delhi.
Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Rajiv Mathur is one of the new commissioners.
Also added were the former environment secretary Vijai Sharma, recently working as an expert…
23 February 2012
India’s Central Information Commission has ruled that the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) had falls under the Right to Information Act, using the decision to underscore its position that other public-private partnerships are also covered, a contentious issue.
22 February 2012
A proposed Right to Information law exemption in a new Indian nuclear safety bill appears to be faring poorly in Parliament.
A committee looking into the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority bill is likely to propose dropping the RTI provision, according…
17 February 2012
The Indian Central Information Commission has told the Ministry of Environment & Forests to put more information on its website.
The Jan. 18 decision by Commissioner Sailesh Gandhi resulted from a complaint brought by Shibani Ghosh of The Access Initiative…
16 February 2012
By Chiranjibi Kafle
The writer is Head, Department of English, RR Campus, Kathmandu. This article was originally published in Republica and is reprinted with permission.
More than 90 countries in the world today have introduced Right to Information (RTI) legislations…
10 February 2012
The appointment of eight information commissioners in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has sparked objections that they are unqualified.
Four of the announced commissioners are politicians in the ruling Congress party. The others include three retired or current civil servants and…
6 February 2012
Some Indian states are making it harder for applicants to use the Right to Information law, according to a series of recent news reports.
To the distress of RTI activists, states are:
- imposing higher fees,
- requiring statements of…
3 February 2012
The government of India has proposed to amend the Right to Information Act to exclude from coverage any nuclear safety agencies created in the future.
The government introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill (NSRA Bill) in September 2011, but…
19 January 2012
The Indian Central Information Commission has started making public on its website a list of pending cases.
The new feature, at the top of left column, began Jan. 9 and will be updated monthly.
Shailesh Gandhi, one of the five…
22 December 2011
The Indian Sports Ministry has asserted that the right to information law covers Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), according to a Times of India report.
The ministry submitted a seven-page statement Dec. 16 to the Central Information…
20 December 2011
By Shonali Ghosal
Ghosal is a correspondent with Tehelka magazine, based in New Delhi, which published this article in its Dec. 24 edition. Following is an interview with Shailesh Gandhi, a Central Information Commissioner. (Reprinted with permission.)
The mere suggestion…
5 December 2011
The U.S. government Dec. 5 unveiled “open source code” designed to help governments manage data and ultimately create more open government platforms around the world.
The development grew from an U.S.-India collaboration and a next step, according to the White…
18 October 2011
A top Indian minister has denied that the government wants to rewrite the right to information law, apparently seeking to quell a firestorm of criticisms precipitated by the prime minister’s call for a “critical look” at the RTI Act.
14 October 2011
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Oct. 14 called for a “critical look” at the six-year-old Right to Information Act.
He expressed concern about a “flood” of requests, about disclosure inhibiting the deliberations of government officials, and about the coverage of…
12 October 2011
The Indian Central Information Commission has adopted a potential deterrent to attacks on users of the right to information law.
The CIC announced it will react to assaults on RTI activists by pressing government agencies to promptly release all the…
12 September 2011
An Indian court has upheld with the government’s decision to exempt the Central Bureau of Investigation, a security and intelligence agency, from coverage under the right to information law.
The Madras high court Sept. 9 became the first in the…
2 September 2011
The Asian Centre for Human Rights has issued a report, “RTI activists: sitting ducks of India,” stated that from January 2010 to August 2011, at least 12 right to information activists including have been murdered and recommending an amendment to…
31 August 2011
The Indian Cabinet Aug. 30 rejected a proposal to regulate national sports federations that included a provision to bring them under the right to information law. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)
The disapproval was overwhelming according to news reports, but the…
15 August 2011
India’s Sports Minister Ajay Maken has proposed that sports federations be subject to the right to information law, according to media reports such as one in ndtv.com
He has proposed a variety of procedural reforms, including the creation of a…
10 August 2011
The Indian Supreme Court Aug. 8 said students had the right to access their evaluated answer sheets under the Right to Information Act.
In its decision, the court upheld a 2009 Calcutta high court that the materials are not exempt…
29 July 2011
Indian right to information activists are expressing dissatisfaction with an internal government legal opinion that would exempt Public Private Partnership Projects (PPPs) from the right to information law.
The Central Information Commission has decided to seek Prime Minister’s Manmohan Singh’s…
27 July 2011
By Venkatesh Nayak
Nayak is Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
We are all aware of the practice of bureaucrats who classify files, records and various kinds of electronic information as ‘top secret’, ‘secret’ and ‘confidential’.…
21 July 2011
The United States and India July 19 announced plans to jointly develop “open source” platforms for other governments to use to post government data.
The software will be available by the first quarter of 2011, according to one paragraph in…
15 July 2011
The United States and India on July 19 in India will unveil plans to help other countries use technology to improve access to government information.
The joint effort will focus primarily on “harnessing technology” to enhance openness efforts, U.S. Chief Technology Officer…
12 July 2011
By Toby McIntosh
On the eve of the kick-off event for the Open Government Partnership, India dropped out, but the show went on, with enthusiastic pro-transparency speeches at a day-long event at the U.S. State Department in Washington.
8 July 2011
The Indian Central Information Commission has crossed swords with the government over its exemption of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the Right to Information Act as the matter heads toward a likely conclusion in the courts.
17 June 2011
The Indian Cabinet June 9 decided to exempt the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the Right to Information Act, according to news reports, but official confirmation has not been forthcoming.
The exemption was requested by the CBI, arguing that…
27 May 2011
The Delhi High Court May 22 stayed a Central Information Commission order that would have allowed Indians to seek information to use Right to Information Act to obtain court records.
The commission ruled May 11 that the RT Act takes precedence…
18 May 2011
A key Indian cabinet committee is recommending that three law enforcement and intelligence agencies be exempted from the right to information law, Indian newspapers are reporting.
The move would exempt from RTI coverage the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National…
18 May 2011
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has asked the Indian Department of Personnel and Training, Government to address a lack of uniformity with regard to right to information rules by state governments and the High Courts.
One problem, according to the…
18 May 2011
The Indian Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that the Right to Information Act takes precedence over the internal rules of the Supreme Court.
The court rules required a showing of “good cause.”
The First Appellate Authority (FFA) held that…
6 May 2011
Right to information requests rival bribery as a way to cut through bureaucratic red tape in India, according to two studies by U.S. academics.
The experiments involved the complicated processes of registering to vote and getting ration cards, and were…
8 April 2011
The Indian Central Information Commission has taken a step to fight a backlog of cases and has decided that commissioners should disclose their assets.
The six commissioners are being asked to dispose of around 3,200 appeals and complaints every year,…
4 April 2011
A new 16-person body, the South Asia Advisers on the Right to Information, was formed during a two-day long convention in Kathmundu, Nepal, from March 27- 29.
Made up of chief information officers, RTI activists and others, the group will…
25 March 2011
The Indian government has backed down on most of its controversial proposals to amend the right to know law, following pressure from the National Advisory Council.
The government is sticking with a proposal to limit applications to one subject, however,…
14 March 2011
Indian right to know activists March 13 passed a 12-point resolution urging that the law’s jurisdiction be expanded to cover Public-Private Partnership (PPP) entities, political parties, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations.
The “Shillong Declaration” was approved at the conclusion of…
11 March 2011
Some 500 participants are attending a three-day national convention on right to information in Shillong, India, titled “Reclaim Democracy,” from March 10-12.
Aruna Roy, social activist and member of the National Advisory Council, addressed the convention, saying, “The Right to…
4 March 2011
The Indian government has backed down somewhat from its proposal to limit the length of freedom of information requests to 250 words.
Five hundred words would be permitted, according to a Times of India report, which credited the movement to…
4 March 2011
Aruna Roy, the convener of the Indian National Advisory Council’s group on transparency on March 3 requested that the council examine a proposed whistleblower bill that she said would be “wholly inadequate” to stop the killing of Right to Information Act users. …
4 March 2011
The Indian Central Information Commission (CIC) has proposed bringing more transparency to the private corporations participating in the government’s public private partnership (PPP) programs, but the request appears to be meeting with resistance, or not.
The story began when the CIC asked…
25 February 2011
More than 15,000 appeals under the Indian Right to Information Act (RTI) are pending with the Central Information Commission.
The information was released by Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanasamy Feb. 24…
10 February 2011
By Amitabh Thakur
IPS officer from UP and President, National RTI Forum
“RTI Martyrs ! Who the hell are they?” someone might ask.
And the reason is obvious. For long we have listened the word martyr as someone who has…
28 January 2011
An Indian government department has replied negatively to criticisms of its proposals to amendment the Right to Know Act rules, including to place a word limit on request and to abate appeals on the death of an applicant.
The Department of…