The first step taken in the right to information in 1986 by the Supreme Court in a famous case gave a clear cut directive that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the constitution clearly implies right to information as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens 1. The second step taken in 1994 by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan an organization for workers rights started a grassroots campaign for Right to Information-demanding information concerning development works in rural Rajasthan. This movement grew and the campaign resulted in the government of Rajasthan enacting a law on Right to information in 2000. Another influential step taken in 1996 by National Campaign for People’s Right to Information one among several civil society group founded with the objective of getting legislation on RTI passed. The above following steps initiate the formation of right to information. In pursuance of this rights introduce the Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 in the parliament. It is finally passed in parliament on 4th December, 2002 and it received assent of the President of India on 6th January 2003. Meanwhile, instead of waiting for a central legislation, many states have enacted their own laws on right to information (RTI Act). These include Goa (1997), Tamil Nadu (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Maharashtra (2000), Karnataka (2000) and Delhi (2001).
RIGHT TO INFORMATION
Information means “ any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, 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” 2. The right to information includes the following rights:-
a) Inspect works, documents, and records.
b) Take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
c) Take certified samples of material.
d) Obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts3. The Central RTI Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All bodies, which are constituted under the Constitution or under any law or under any Government notification or all bodies, including NGOs, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government are covered. All private bodies, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government, are directly covered. Others are indirectly covered. That is if a government department can access the information from any private body under any other Act, the same can be accessed by the citizen under the RTI Act through that government department.
➢ OBJECTIVE OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION
a) The basic objective of the Right to Information is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the government.
b) Another objective is to fight against the corruption in the public sectors and make our democracy work for the people in the real sense.
c) It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped of keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and makes the government more accountable to governed.
d) The right to information is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.
➢ EXCEPTION FROM DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION
The RTI Act provides information to the public. It is a source which provides transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities. After having these importance but there are many situations in which the information held by the public authority is very sensitive means which cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information, Act because such information can harm the sovereignty and dignity of the country. Section 8 of the Right to Information Act 2005 mentions the following exceptions where the information will not disclose:-
a) Information relating to sovereignty and integrity of India
The information when disclosed can affect the sovereignty and the integrity of India, the security, scientific or economic interest, strategy of the state and its relation with the foreign country or which leads to any offence is prohibited and can’t be disclosed4. Protecting the sovereignty is the main purpose of the constitution, the information which will affect the sovereignty and the dignity of the Indian, should be kept secret as if it will be disclose can cause a lot of harm to the country.
b) Information that may constitute contempt of court.
The Information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court5. The information which are either willful disobedience of the decree, order or any judgments or the other process of the court in the civil contempt and for the criminal contempt there has to be publication of any matter of any act which may either scandalize or lower the authority of the court, or interface in the proceedings of the court or obstruct the proceedings of the court such kind of information are exempted under the Act 2005. In Mr. P.K. Puri vs Ministry of Labour Mumbai, the Judges bench said that “each court has its own rules regarding the furnishing of copies of documents connected with a case pending before it, to third parties, If rules of the Tribunal permit furnishing copies of the affidavits or other documents connected with this pending case, or if the rules are silent on this aspect, the documents sought for be furnished to the appellant within 15 days, free of cost. However, if furnishing of the same is not permitted, so such information will not disclose6.
c) Any information which breach the privilege parliament or state legislature
Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature is exempted under the RTI Act 20057. Under this any information is prohibited if it causes a breach of privilege of Parliament or state legislature. In India, under article 105 and 194 of the constitution the powers and privileges are given to the parliament and the state legislature. This powers and privileges cannot be breached. If any information is disclosed and is causing breach of powers and privileges then it is exempted to provide information.
d) Any information relating to trade secret or intellectual property right
Under this subsection of the Right to Information Act the information can’t be disclosed if it is related to the commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, as when such information is disclosed it can harm the competitive position of the third party. But under this clause if the competent authority is satisfied that after disclosing of the information the interest of the large public is fulfilled then the information can be disclosed8. In Bhagawal Seth vs. Bank of Baroda observed that apart from commercial confidence there is also a fiduciary relationship between banks and the customers. So before providing the information the bank has to check the public interest. In this case the bank refuses to provide the information as if bank will provide it will lead to the breach of trust and may also harm the party as the competiveness position of the third party9.
e) Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship
The information which is available to a person in his fiduciary relationship are under the exemption of discloser unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information10. The fiduciary relationship is such a relation which exists between the parties to the transaction where one of the parties is duty bound to act with utmost good faith for the benefit of other party. Such relation arises out of the confidence having with parties on each other. The fiduciary relation is mostly arising in the relation of trust. The trustee under trust has been receive information on the fiduciary relation so such information is protects under this exemption but if such information are relation to public at large so such protection is not given. In CBSE v Aditya Bandhopadhyay, Supreme Court held down that fiduciary relation which is mention in section 8(1)(e) of RTI Act is refer to a person who act in a fiduciary capacity with reference to a specific beneficiary who is expected to be protected by the action of trustee11.
f) The information received in confidence from any foreign Government.
Under section 8 (1)(f) provides the exemption from the disclosure of information which are receive from any foreign government. When a relationship is formed between two countries some information is shared between two countries that information is for the benefit of both the country. That information is exchanged by trusting on each other and forming the fiduciary relationship. But if some information is disclosed that can break the trust of one country over another country. Also the disclosure of such information can harm the country. So the information which is given by the foreign country to the Indian country that should be kept confidential because disclosure of such information can lead against the welfare and the interest of the country.
g) The information which could endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
The information is exempted when it is related to the life of some person, and the life of that person will come to in endanger if the information is disclosed12. To protect the life of a person the information has to be prohibited. As every person has a fundamental right to life, so if information is affecting the right of a person then such information can’t be disclosed as life of a person is more important than the information. Section 8 protects information from disclosing when it is either endangering the life or liberty of a person. In CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay, the Supreme Court held that the information as to the names or particulars of the examiners/coordinators/scrutinizers/head examiners are exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (g) of RTI Act, on the ground that if such information is disclosed, it may endanger their physical safety13.
h) The information which delay the investigation proceedings or prosecution of offender.
The information can’t be provided if it is obstructing the process of the investigation or prosecution of offender14. There should be hampering, obstruction in the proceeding if the information is provided then only the exemption is granted under this clause from providing the information. It is necessary to check whether by providing the information the hamper will create or not in the proceeding proper investigation should be conducted, so that no harm is done to the citizen of India.
i) Information relating to cabinet paper.
The information which is prohibited includes the records of deliberation of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers15. This information is exempted. When the decision is taken by the cabinet minister and the proceedings are over then the information can be disclosed but under one condition that it should not be exempted. If it is exempted under this clause then the information can’t be disclosed.
j) Information that Invasion of the privacy of the individual. The information which is prohibited is the personal information. Here personal information does not mean the information of the individual, personal information means information of a third party. Section 8(1) (j) of the Right to information Act, 2005 can be applied only when someone asking the information which is related to the third party and which is his/her personal information. But there is a clause under this section that if a person wants information for the public interest then the information can’t be denied. If the information is provided, it will affect the fundamental right which right to privacy. Under Article 21 of the Indian constitution every citizen has a right to privacy. So to protect this right exemption is granted under this section so that no third party information can be provided.