Right to Information Act, 2005: Important Provisions
Right to Information Act, 2005 mainly aims at a corruption-free and more transparent form of government where authorities are accountable to citizens and they feel a sense of safety and power.
Key provisions of the Act contain the Right to Information granted to all the citizens and obligations it imposes on public authorities. Moreover, the act maintains a sense of balance between the exercise of this Right by the citizens and secrecy of information necessary to be maintained by the government for the greater public good. Therefore, Sections 8 and 9 also become an important provision of the act, both for the informant and the informer.
The Act is detailed in itself and yet provides for the appropriate government to make rules for the smooth and consistent application of the Act.
Misuse of Rule-making Power
It is a well-established principle of delegated legislation that subordinate legislation can only frame rules and regulations for procedural flexibility only and only in consonance with the main legislation, not only in provisions but also true to its purpose, soul and spirit. Further, where any contradiction is present, the main legislation shall have an overriding effect.
Guide on the Right to Information Act, 2005 as published by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Department of Personnel & Training mentions that The RTI Act has overriding effect vis-à-vis other laws. It implies that if any of the provisions of the RTI Act are not consistent with any other law for the time being in force including the Official Secrets Act, 1923, the provisions of the RTI Act would have an effect.
Our judiciary has also reaffirmed that any information, including evaluated answer sheets cannot be denied or charge more amount than fees and expenses mentioned in the Central Legislation.
Yet, various competent authorities, including High Courts, educational institutions, government offices, etc. through their rules and regulations charge an exorbitant amount for information which has so been allowed, rather is the Right of every citizen under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Some of the examples of misuse of this power being-
High Court Right to Information Rules of states like, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, etc. charge fees ranging from INR 20-100 for the application form, for which prescribed fee under the Act is INR 10. Further, the prescribed fee for a photocopy of such information is INR 2 per page but some High Courts charge unreasonable amount. Like, Odisha High Court charges INR 20 for each sheet of paper of non-judicial stamp, which is 10 times more than what is prescribed by the legislation.
Educational Institutions of many states charge a fee for verification of academic records including evaluated answer sheets as per their bylaws and Rules and Guidance books. Whereas, such academic records and evaluated answer sheets have been considered as information by the Apex Court in numerous decisions. Yet, no amendments have been made Government-funded institutions in their rules and regulations. For example, Allahabad University of Uttar Pradesh charges INR 500 per student/candidate, for inland applications and US$ 100- the equivalent amount in Indian rupees for foreign applications.
Remedies available against such misuse
Remedies to remove these contradictions are itself provided in the central legislation. Section 18(1)(d) mentions that it is the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person who has been made to pay a number of fees which he or she considers unreasonable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shubhangi Gupta is currently studying Law at the School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy studies.
You can contact them at https://www.linkedin.com/in/shubhangi-gupta-24209b1aa/
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