The Supreme Court has observed that Right to Information is a part of Right to Speech and Expression which is a Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. According to the Supreme Court, Right to Speech and Expression cannot be exercised without Right Information.
In recognition of the need to promote transparency in public and to curb corruption, the Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act in 2005. It is a path breaking legislation to empower the people specially the weaker sections of the population. While right to information is guaranteed by the Constitution, the Act sets out practical regime for citizens to secure access to information on all matter of governance. The Act is thus a landmark initiative to mark the public administration accountable and the decision- making process participatory.
This law is very comprehensive, covers almost all levels of governance and has the widest possible reach. It is applicable not only to Union, State and Local Government and the public authorities but also to recipients of government grants. Access to information under this Act is extensive with minimum exemptions to safeguard national interests. Even the exempted organization are subject to the citizens right to know when the matter relates to corruption or human right violation.
The Act is perhaps the most progressive of all such legislation in the world. The citizen need not to establish his locus standi to seek information. It overrides anything contrary to any other Act included the ‘Official Secrets Act’, 1923.
The procedure for seeking information under the Act is very simple. A person seeking information from any office of the Government has to simple make a request to the concerned Public Information Officer. The request has merely indicate the information sought and the address at which the information is required. The request can be sent by post or submitted in person. It can be made in Hindi or English or in the Official language of the area and can also be sent through e-mail.
The Act permits the application to inspect the official documents. It also permits the applicants to collect samples of various works.
If The applicant does not get the information within 30 days or the applicant is not satisfied with the reply given to him, he can make a first appeal within 30 days to the appellate authority who is generally the officer immediately superior to Public Information Officer. The Appellate authority has to decide the appeal within 30 days of the receipt of appeal.
If the applicant is not satisfied with the decisions the Appellate Authority, he can file a second appeal to Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be within 90 days. The Central Information Commission entertains appeals in case of offices, financial institution, public sector undertakings, etc. under the Central Government and the Union Territories while the State Information Commission entertains appeals pertaining to offices, financial institution, public sector undertakings, etc. under the concerned State Government..
Central information Commissions/ State information Commissions are high-powered independent Commissions. These Commissions have also been granted the authority to impose a penalty on the defaulting Public Information Officers.
The Act has transformed the regime of secrecy into the regime of openness. It is not that information shall be supplied only when a person requests for it. Rather, every public authority, in order to disseminate maximum quantum of information in respect of its organization suo motu so that public has minimum need to resort to seek information from the Public authorities.