India always takes pride in being the largest democracy, but with the passing of the Right to Information Act 2005, it has also become an accountable, interactive and participatory democracy. I have selected the RTI Act and its implementation for the term paper in political science. The project will study the RTI Act and its policy and how it influenced efficient governance in India. Right to Information Act is a significant policy that changed the face of public administration in India. It is also hailed as the first people’s law in India. India always takes pride in being the largest democracy, but with the passing of the Right to Information Act 2005, it has also become an accountable, interactive and participatory democracy. The right to information is an important people’s right which provided the citizens the right to know and seek information about the functioning of the government. It is a very popular law that emerged from people’s movement.


The first RTI law was developed by Sweden in 1766, followed after two decades, by the United States in 1966, Norway (1970), France and Netherlands (1978), Australia, New Zealand and Canada (1982), Denmark (1985), Greece (1986), Austria (1987) and Italy (1990).  The concept of Right to Information started taking shape in India in 1970’s by the liberal interpretation by the judiciary especially, under the right to freedom of speech and expression.[1]. In the case of Bennett Coleman and co versus Union of India in 1973, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court then put it “Freedom of speech and expression” includes within it compass the right of all citizens to read and be informed”. The right to information of citizens about government’s activities was first recognized in India by the Indian Supreme Court as part of fundamental right under Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution. It began in the year 1975 in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain[2], wherein Justice K.K. Mathew first time interpreted the right to information as integral part of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Later, in 1kjnn  982, the Supreme Court of India in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India,[3] categorically held that the freedom of speech and expression includes within its scope the right to information. It was reiterated again in Mr. Kulwal v. Jaipur Municipal Corporation[4], where the Supreme Court held that Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the constitution clearly implies Right to Information. The Supreme Court in 1981 once again stated in Manubhai Shah versus Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) [5] that basic purpose of freedom of speech and expression is that all members should be able to form their beliefs and communicate them freely to others. There have been many cases favouring disclosure of Government information and transparency. As a result of a lack of clear legislation on this, people had to go to courts every time they wanted to enforce this right. Courts have responded positively. The common citizen had neither the means nor the time and inclination to get into a proper legal process and even PIL was a tool which could reach only few elite people.

The grassroots campaign for a separate law for Right to Information gained momentum taking inspiration from the judicial interpretation. The movement for the RTI received a fresh impetus from the courageous and powerful grass roots struggle of the rural poor to combat rampant corruption in famine relief works The ‘Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)’in Rajasthan under the leadership of Srimati Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey spearheaded the people’ movement in the year 1994. In the year 1996, ‘National Campaign for People’s RTI’ was formed and it formulated initial draft of RTI law for the government. The reverberation of this struggle for RTI Act led a nationwide demand for a law to guarantee the RTI to every citizen. For the first time fifth central pay commission recommended to establish a law to public information, later  many social organisations started movement to right to information. Action group for RTI, Soochnaka Addhikar Abhiyan, National campaign for people right to information, Nyayabhoomi and many other people’s groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and many activist like Anna Hazare, Aravind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Rakesh, BB Sharan and many other RTI activists seriously protested for the rightful law to the people. Tamil Nadu had become the first Indian state to pass the RTI law in the year 1997. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was passed in the year 2002. Therefore, Bill for the RTI Act, 2005 was passed and became fully operational on 12th October 2005. The RTI Bill was passed by Parliament of India on 15 June 2005 and came into force with effect from 12 October 2005. Every day on an average, over 4800 RTI applications are filed.


 Right to Information Bill, 2004 was passed by both the Houses of Parliament in May 2005, which received the assent of the President on 15th June 2005. ‘The Right to Information Act’ was notified in the Gazette of India on 21st June, 2005. The “The Right to Information Act” became fully operational from 12th October, 2005. The right to information is enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution, which empowers the citizen to seek any information from public authority and on the other hand right to privacy enshrined under Article 21, assures privacy to the citizen. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The RTI is a constitutional right. This law was passed in order to consolidate the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. Since right to information is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, it is considered as an implied fundamental right.[6]

It gave rise to the formation of independent statutory bodies, namely, the State and the Central Information Commission (CIC). To ensure their efficacy and independence, these bodies had virtually been eradicated off of most of the ties with the Government, so as to make them truly independent in practice. Hence, even the CIC has no jurisdiction over the State Information Commission (SIC) despite it being at the hierarchal bottom. The right to information has now become a positive right, where the State is obligated to take “suitable measures” to create awareness about the law, orient governments to provide information to people and ensure its implementation. The RTI Act is a ‘textbook example’ of a “constitutional statute” as the statute is about the Centre and State governments fulfilling its positive obligations under Article 19(1)(a) to re enforce a constitutional right.


  • The RTI Act lets people look at government documents and ask for any public information from the government.
  • All government bodies, whether state, central or local, are liable to respond to an RTI query. All government-owned organisations are also liable to provide information under RTI Act.
  • A Public Information Officer (PIO) will be designated to handle RTI queries. This person accepts the request forms and gives the public the information they want.
  • Assistant PIOs work in every district or divisional level and help people get information.
  • Every person who wants to get information under the RTI Act must fill out an application in Hindi or English and send it in by email. If you can’t write it, PIOs will assist in putting your oral request in writing.
  • If the applicant is deaf, blind, or has disabilities, the public authority must offer assistance and access to the documents sought.
  • The applicant doesn’t need to explain why they want the information or give any other personal information.
  • The applicant can file a complaint against the PIO if he doesn’t give him the information he needs on time.
  • Any information that can be given to the legislative assembly must be given to any applicant under the RTI Act.
  • PIOs are liable to pay a fine of Rs. 250 per day for delay in not furnishing the required information to an applicant.

Implementation of RTI Act:

 The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government headed by Dr. M Manamohan Singh passed the RTI Act in the Parliament after speedy and marathon discussion. The earlier Freedom of Information Act, 2002, has got the assent of the President of India, but it was not notified and finally it was replaced with the RTI Act that came in to force on October 12, 2005. On the same day, first RTI application was filed by Mr.Shahid Raza Burney in Pune Police station. This act was severely criticised for permitting too many exemptions, not only under the standard grounds of national security and sovereignty but also for requests that would involve disproportionate diversion of the resources of a public authority there was no upper limit on the charges that could be levied and no penalties. Some states like Tamil Nadu and Goa in 1997, Karnataka and Rajasthan in 2000, Delhi in 2001, Madya Pradesh in 2003, Jammu and Kashmir in 2004 and Haryana in 2005 have successfully enacted the RTI act.


 There are three organs of the state i.e. legislature, executive and judiciary. Legislature and executive has always been covered into the ambit of the RTI but judiciary had always been secluded on the grounds of independence of judiciary which is enshrined in the constitution. The Act extends to the whole of India. It covers all the constitutional authorities, including executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. Legislature and Executive have always been under the ambit of the RTI act but, its relation with Judiciary has not been the same mainly due to the reason that the independence of Judiciary has been enshrined in the basic structure doctrine.

Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India vs. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, 2020

In this case, three appeals were filed which arose from three different Applications filed by respondent, Subhash Chandra Agarwal before Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Supreme Court. The apex Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the Delhi High Court judgment by directing the Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court to furnish information regarding collegium decision-making, personal assets of judges, correspondence with CJI. No general decision came up relating to the universal disclosure of above-mentioned information. This case also held RTI Applicable to Office of CJI. Recently, the former CJI, Justice Ramana had directed setting up of fast track courts to conduct speedy trial of legislators in all states. Stressing the need to have transparency, Justice Ramana in one of his rulings said that the office of the CJI comes under RTI.

Dhananjay Tripathi v. Banaras Hindu University, 2016

The applicant had applied for information relating to the treatment and subsequent death of a student in a university hospital due to alleged negligence of the doctors attending him. The appellant was, however, denied the information by the PIO of the university saying that the information sought could not be provided under section 8 (1)(g) of the RTI Act. No further reasons as to how the information sought could not be provided under the RTI Act was given. The Commission has held that quoting the provisions of section 8 (1) of the RTI Act to deny the information without giving any justification or grounds as to how these provisions are applicable is simply not acceptable, and clearly amount to mala fide denial of legitimate information. The public authority must provide reasons for rejection the particular application. The Commission further held that not providing the reasons of how the application for information was rejected according to a particular provision of the Act would attract penalties under section 20(1) of the Act.


The Section 4 of the RTI Act talks about Suo Moto declaration. When it comes to its applicability to the state government, the RTI Act mandates timely response within 30 days to citizen requests for government information. An Indian citizen can file an RTI to seek information from government offices, departments, ministries, and all the organisations run by the government of India or any other state government. The Supreme Court asked for the government’s response to a plea seeking the effective implementation of a provision in the Right to Information Act, which obliges public authorities to suo motu disclose information to the public in order to maintain transparency in governance. A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul issued notice on a plea filed by Kishan Chand Jain seeking government agencies strictly adhere to the statutory mandate of Section 4 of the RTI Act. The Section prescribes that it would be the “constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”.

The petition termed the Section as the soul of the Right to Information, without which the Act would only be an “ornamental legislation”. “There should be suo moto disclosure of all vital information. Section 4(2) embodies this mandate of suo moto proactive disclosures,” the petition said. It backed its cause by citing reports of the Central Information Commission on the lack of compliance by public authorities. The Delhi High Court had said that personal information that has no relation to any public activity or interest or the disclosure of such information is unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individuals; in such circumstances, personal information cannot be disclosed by the central or the state public information officer. Thus, section 8 of the Right to Information Act has categorically mentioned that personal information cannot be supplied which has no relation to any public activity.

Public Interest Disclosure:

The Section provides that the public authority has to disclose the information when requested by the individual under Section 6 if such information relates to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made by such individual. The RTI Act made the public officials to maintain proper records and modernize the record keeping.  It provided the time limit for disposal of information. It also exempted the disclosure of third-party information.


 Government of India (GOI) constituted the Central Information Commission (CIC) with a Chief Information Commissioner and four Information Commissioners.[7] The Information Commissions play an important role along with Information officers and appellate Authorities in creating awareness and implementing the Act.

The CIC has been hearing appeals under the Act. The provisions of Section 15 came into force at once, thereby meaning that all the State Governments were required to constitute their respective Commissions immediately on enactment of the RTI Act. The Commission also obtained information about the background of the State Chief Information Commissioners so as to ascertain whether all sections of society are being represented.

The Act provides for selection of CIC and SICs in a bipartisan manner, and involves the Leader of the Opposition in the process. Since the Act is applicable to all three organs of the State, it would be appropriate to include in the selection committee the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or High Court as the case may be. This will inspire public confidence and enhance the quality of the selection. Act allows for dispersal of Information Commissions to provide easy access to citizens.[8]

However, neither the CIC nor the SICs have established offices at places other than the Capitals. For an overly citizen friendly law to be effectively implemented, it is vital to have easy access in a vast country like ours. The Commission is therefore of the view that the CIC should be dispersed in at least 4 regions. Similarly, the SICs in larger States should be dispersed depending on population density and geographical area.

Act visualizes a Commission wherein the members represent different sections of the society. The State Governments are still in the process of appointing Information Commissioners. But an analysis of the background of the State Chief Information Commissioners indicates the preponderance of persons with civil service background.

Members with civil services background no doubt bring with them wide experience and an intricate knowledge of government functioning. However, to inspire public confidence and in the light of the provisions of the Act, it is desirable that the Commissions have a large proportion of members with non-civil services background.

Designating Information Officers and Appellate Authorities:

All Union Ministries/Departments have designated PIOs thus complying with the stipulation of designating PIOs. The Commission also noted that in GOI the level of PIOs varied from Joint Secretary to Under Secretary.

Ideally the PIO should be of a sufficiently senior rank. This is done to enable them to access information and furnish it in an intelligible and useful manner. At the same time the PIO should be sufficiently accessible to the public. Therefore, the Commission is of the view that in GOI there should be a uniform pattern of appointing an officer of the rank of Deputy Secretary/Director as PIO.

While Section 19(1) read with Section 7(3) (b) implies designating an appellate authority for each PIO. The law does not specifically provide for designating of appellate authorities as it does in case of PIOs. While PIOs are invariably notified, this is not the case with appellate authorities. This omission needs to be rectified.


Section 5 (1) of the Act requires a Public Authority to designate “as many” officers as Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, in all administrative units and offices under it as may be necessary to provide information to persons requesting for the same.

They were to be designated within 100 days of the enactment of the Act. Similarly, Central or State Assistant Public Information Officers are to be designated at “each sub-divisional level or other sub-district level” to receive applications or appeals and forward them on to the concerned Public Information Officers, Designated Appellate officers and the Information Commission[9]. This is to ensure that the public can apply for information in their own local areas without the need for traveling long distances to the offices of the Public Information Officers.


The section 2 (n)  defines “Third Party” to mean a person other than the citizen making a request for information and the public authority to which the request is made. It could be a private individual or a public authority.

Section 11 of the Act requires that if the information sought by the citizen pertains to a record or part thereof relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and if it is not treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO is at liberty to provide the same to the applicant. If, however such above information is treated as ‘confidential’ by that third party, the following steps will have to be taken.

The PIO gives a written notice to the third party, within 5 days of receipt of the application, and conveys his intention to disclose the information or record while requiring the third party to make a submission, within 10 days from the date of receipt of such notice, regarding whether the information should be disclosed or not. The third party should, within 10 days from the date of receipt of notice from the PIO, make a representation in writing or orally against the proposed disclosure and give written notice to the third party. The PIO can, within 40 days after the receipt of application for information, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation, make a decision on disclosure and give a written notice to the third party.

The third party is entitled to prefer an appeal against the decision of the PIO. Except in the case of “trade or commercial secrets protected by law”, disclosures involving third party information may be allowed, if 8 the public interest in disclosure outweighs the importance of any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party. If the third party is a private individual, the PIO has to be very cautious and properly weigh the consequences as privacy of an individual is important and protected under Section 8 (1) (j).


The procedure to be followed by the PIO right from the stage of receipt of application for information till the disposal involves a number of steps as follows:

  • receives application along with the application fee.
  • scrutinizes the application received and the fees prescribed.
  • If required, renders reasonable assistance to the applicant by reducing the oral request in writing.
  • Record the application in the Inward Register.
  • Issues acknowledgement/ receipt to the applicant.
  • Transfers the application / part of it to another public authority, if required.
  • Informs the applicant about such transfers.
  • Makes necessary entries in the Register being maintained.
  • Considers the representations of a ‘third party’, if any.
  • In case of rejection, conveys reason for it, the period within which the appeal may be preferred and the details of the Appellate Authority to whom appeal can be preferred.
  • Sends intimation to the applicant the further fee, representing the cost of providing the information, to be paid along with its calculations.
  • Also intimates about the modalities of deposit of fee, the right of the applicant for review of the fees charged and appeal against the calculation or the form of access.
  • Wherever required, provides assistance to citizens for inspection of works, documents, records and taking samples of material.
  • Waives fees for citizens Below Poverty Line.
  • Retains record on each application, disposal etc. so that materials as required may be furnished to appellate authorities in case first/second appeal is preferred.

A PIO is required under the Act to either provide the information, on payment of the requisite fee or reject the request within the time limit prescribed. The Act stipulates that where a request for information is rejected by the PIO, the PIO will communicate the decision to the person making the request along with:

  1. the reasons for rejection.
  2. the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred (within 30 days of the date of the rejection)
  • the particulars of the Appellate Authority.

X.   Challenges or drawbacks of RTI Act:

  • Misuse of RTI Act :Due to non-applicability of locus-standi rule to RTI case and non-requirement of giving reasons for seeking information, it has been observed that the RTI act is misused by the many petitioners. This leaves ample scope for non-serious information seekers to misuse it for their personal interest rather than public interest in disclosure. Also, this diverts the time of public servants and adversely affects their work.
  • Low Public Awareness:Public Awareness is very low in India regarding their rights as well as duties. Some reasons behind this are lack of education and awareness. It was further observed that awareness level is low among the rural areas and in disadvantaged communities such as women, SC/ST/OBC.
  • Huge Backlog and Delay in Disposal of Cases:One of the reasons the RTI Act was considered to be revolutionary was that a response has to be provided in a fixed time, failing which the government official concerned would be penalized. However, this time-bound nature of the Act suffers due to multiple reasons. Due to the insufficient number of Information Commissioners at the centre level, there is a high backlog and delay in the hearing of the cases.
  • Further, because of poor quality,incomplete and inaccurate information, the    filing the First appeal increases significantly under the RTI Act. Moreover, the act doesn’t provide any limit within which the Second Appeal to Chief Information Commission (CIC) must be heard. Due to this, the applicant has to wait for months in order to have his or her case heard at CIC.
  • Ineffective record management systemsand procedures to collect information from field offices lead to delays in processing RTI applications.
  • Dilution of the law:The RTI Act (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the central government the power to fix the terms and the service conditions of the Information Commissioners both at central and state levels. By vesting excessive powers with the central government, this amendment has hampered the autonomy of CIC.
  • Issue of Enforceability:The Act does not give adequate authority to the Information Commissions to enforce their decisions. Information commissions can give directions to public authorities to take the steps necessary to comply with the Act, but are not empowered to take any action if such directions are ignored..
  • Open Data Policy:Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites. By this, the petitioners may immediately access whatever information they need. This will also reduce the burden of the department to provide information which takes much of its valuable time.
  • Compiling of Similar RTI Applications:Many RTI Applicants file multiple RTI applications on the same subject/seek the same information, which increases the burden of the information department of various public institutions.
    Also, a system needs to be put in to weed out such duplicate cases.
  • Preventing Misuse of RTI:RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition. Also, there should be a provision of Penalty for wasting the valuable time of the Information Commissioner for demanding unnecessary information or which is not in public interest.
  • Balancing with Privacy Right:Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution. Thus, the right to information has to be balanced with the right to privacy within the framework of law.
  • Increasing Public Awareness:This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas. A chapter on RTI Act, 2005 should be added in school/college curriculum. Central/State Information Commissions should be provided with sufficient funds for creating awareness about RTI Act, 2005.


 Democracy is all about governance of the people, by the people and for the people. In order to achieve the third paradigm, the state needs to start acknowledging the importance of informed public and the role that it plays in the country’s development as a nation. In this context, underlying issues related to RTI Act should be resolved, so that it can serve the needs of information societies.

This research paper tried to answer the fundamental issue pertaining to the implementation and enactment of the RTI Act 2005, under which I tried to find out what is its essence, its prominent features, PIOs and their duties, Chief Information Commissioner and his duties,  Information Commissioner, and his duties, to name a few.

The Right To Information is a fundamental aspect to the core of our democracy and it is the duty and responsibility of the government to provide information necessary to the public and it’s a citizen’s fundamental right.

This law empowers people to ask for information about central, state governments including non-governmental organizations which are substantially funded by the government. The law gives citizens of India the tools to fight against corruption.

Following with, the case laws mentioned in this project support the above points and questions raised, to justify the validity and importance of the RTI Act.

[1] RTI Fellowship Report, 2015 P a g e | 12 and expression

[2] (AIR 1975 SC865 para 74)

[3] (AIR 1982 SC 149)

[4] (AIR 1988 Raj 2, 1987)

[5] 1993 AIR 171, 1992 SCR (3) 595

[6] Insight IAS, simplifying IAS Exam Preparation, Right To Information Act, 2005, Instapedia

[7] See Section 12 of RTI Act

[8] {Section 12(7), 15(7)}

[9] See Section 5(2)



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