The right to information is like the protective shield of a democratic government. This right is necessary for the proper functioning of democratic mechanisms. The right to information is an integral part of freedom of speech and opinion as provided for in Article 19(1)(A) of the Constitution and is understood to be the first condition of freedom.
It occupies a valuable place in the springboard of freedom, providing security and stability to other freedoms. The phrase “freedom of speech and expression” in Section 19(1)(a) is used to add the right to collect, disseminate or publish information. Information dissemination and acceptance are two sides of the same coin.
An important feature of freedom of thought and expression is the freedom to freely receive and impart information. Without enough information, people cannot make well-informed decisions. Good and proper governance is enhanced not only by democratically elected governments but also by ensuring the right to freedom. 10 years since the FTI Act came into force. The original goal of accountability and transparency in public institutions continues to slip away from reality. All pillars of democracy remain non-transparent and non-compliant with the FTI Act while maintaining a stance on government accountability.
The date of October 12, 2005, should be remembered as a new era of empowerment for ordinary people in India. Applies to all states except Jammu and Kashmir. This law was passed by Congress on June 15, 2005, and came into full force on October 12, 2005. In India, disclosure of information was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws relaxed by the new RTI Act. Access to information is recognized worldwide as one of the inalienable human rights, so all information in the field of public authority should be made available to the public. Everyone has a fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, including the right to seek, impart and receive information.
The right to information means the right of all citizens to access information of public interest, under the control of public authorities, to ensure transparency, accountability to government, and public participation in governance. is in Information is necessary for people to reach their full social, political and economic potential. It contains extensive knowledge on a variety of topics and involves a wide variety of stakeholders from markets to governments. That’s the key to helping you make decisions. It is also a public resource that the government collects and entrusts to keep for the people. Almost all societies have sought to democratize knowledge resources by establishing mechanisms for the free flow of information and ideas so that people can access them without asking. People are therefore empowered to make the right decisions to participate in the development process.46 Access to information is a fundamental human right. Without protection, it is almost impossible for people to fully exercise their other rights and freedoms.
Rights to Information and Constitution
Part III of the Indian Constitution deals with fundamental and inalienable rights known as Fundamental Rights. These rights include the right to equal protection under the law, equal rights before the law, freedom of expression, and the right to life and personal liberty. The remedies for exercising the rights conferred by this part are set forth in Section 32. Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of expression, including the right to access information.
The right to information, therefore, becomes a constitutional right by this article, as the right to freedom of expression also guarantees the right to receive and collect information. Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by section 19(1)(a) includes the right to liberty and information, as decided by the Supreme Court in Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union, India . is implicitly included.
Article 51A of the Constitution imposes certain obligations on citizens, and a fully informed citizen is better prepared to meet these obligations. The right to information is therefore an integral part of the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Right to Information Act 2005:
Until 2005, the public did not have access to information from any government agency. Although freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, citizens had no right to know about the government’s public policies and could not participate in public policy, planning and execution. The right to information is recognized as a constitutional right in nearly every developed and developing country in the world. Nevertheless, a separate and detailed law was needed to enforce it.
The Right to Information Act of 2005
The Right to Information Act of 2005 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”), in order to promote transparency and openness, provides access to information to ensure that citizens have access to information under the control of public authorities. Passed into law by Congress to establish practical regulation of rights. Accountability in the work of all public authorities, as mentioned in the preamble.
The word information has been defined under section 2(f) as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advice, 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.
An inclusive definition of ‘right to information has been given under section 2(j). Section 3 of the Act declares that subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information. Section 4 of the Act imposes a duty upon the public authorities to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and disseminates information which should be cost-effective, given or published in the local language and release in the most effective mode of communication.
Section 5 of the Act deals with the administrative mechanisms under the Act and provides that all administrative officers of every public authority will designate Public Information Officers in order to provide information to information seekers within one hundred days from the commencement of this Act.
Section 6 of the Act requires the person seeking information to make a request in writing or through electronic means in English, 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 Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, of the concerned public authority, and he is not required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. Section 7 of the law requires the PIO to provide information within 30 days of receiving the request, and within 48 hours if the information concerns the life or liberty of an individual. is obligatory.
When citizens have access to timely and accurate information about government policy-making processes and resource allocations, they can examine the rationale and impact of those policies and suggest alternatives that better meet their needs. Until the Right to Information Act came into force, the public was unable to examine the details of the decision-making process and was often ineffective as to its outcome. Thus, it was not possible for people to have a free and open discussion on issues of common interest or to determine accountability for their actions. Gone are those days of ambiguity in policymaking, including monitoring and evaluating systems by data subjects. Every citizen of the country has the right to know how the government works.
The right to information allows us to hold public institutions accountable without putting all the burden on elected officials. Despite having all the resources at their disposal, officials often cannot obtain the information they seek. The right to information stems from our fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19. Without information about how governments and public institutions work, we cannot form an informed opinion. This has been accepted in various Supreme Court decisions since 1977. We all agree that press freedom is an essential component of the functioning of our democracy. It is worthwhile to understand the assumptions underlying this deep-seated belief. Why is media freedom considered one of the essential characteristics of democracy? Democracy revolves around the fundamental idea that citizens are at the heart of governance and control of the people.
The Right to Information Act is a social law that allows all citizens of a country to obtain information from public authorities on a legal basis, making it easier for ordinary people to obtain information from government agencies and ensuring transparency in governance. and provide checkmate against corruption. The right to information provides transparency, ensures accountability, controls corruption and brings openness to public institutions in decision-making.
It promotes public debate about government policy, thereby preventing authorities from acting arbitrarily and arbitrarily. and created the conditions for making informed decisions. Government offices and government agencies hold large amounts of information that is of public interest and must be publicly disclosed and made available to the public as needed. they are looking for information.
In fact, the Right to Information Act is the lifeblood of any democracy, empowering citizens to crack down on corruption in public office and bringing greater transparency and accountability to government agencies. Last but not least, it is more important to raise public awareness of RTI laws so that they can be used to the benefit of the people. Government officials should be truthful in disclosing information that often intimidates applicants or refuses to provide information for any reason.
Written By- Pallavi Agnihotri
Lovely Professional University