It is a known fact that the islanders of Lakshadweep are facing multiple problems in their life due to geographical reasons on one side, which is multiplied many fold by the negative actions and attitude of the officials who are entrusted with the important responsibility of supporting the islanders and bring them up on par with those well educated, well cultured and well settle people of the main land. The local people have no basic knowledge of complaining before the appropriate offices or gathering information on any matter, that have adversely affected them.
As for example, they cannot have access to the relevant records of the Global Tenders floated in the year 2010 for bidding the Bangaram Island Resort. There are many such unknown subjects affecting their life.
In the above background, it is felt essential to bring home the most important enactment of the Indian Parliament, “the Right to Information Act, 2005 (22 of 2005). This Act enables every citizen of India to obtain information on almost all the subject of his interest, by making an application, followed with the specified application fee. In general cases, the concerned is bound by Law to provide the required information to the applicant within 30 days of the days of the application. There are vital penal clauses, which are strong enough to fine or put the erring official in jail, in extreme cases. The profile of the Right to Information Act and the salient clauses thereof are summarized below for the information of the ordinary people of Lakshadweep.
Right To Information Act
(The RTI ACT was enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-sixth Year of the Republic of India)
THE RELEVANCE OF THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005 FOR THE AID OF THE ORDINARY ISLANDERS OF LAKSHADWEEP WHO ARE FACING MULTI-FOLD PROBLEMS OF LIFE, AND THE POSSIBLE SCOPE FOR OBTAINING EQUITY FOR THEM.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005
22 of 2005.
The RTI ACT was enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-sixth Year of the Republic of India.
Until the enactment of the Right to Information Act in the year 2005, there were many limitations for an ordinary citizen to obtain information from Government offices on any particular matter. With the enactment of the RTI Act in 2005, this barrier is demolished. A citizen is now eligible to apply for information on any particular matter from the concerned offices. All he has to do is to make an application to the concerned office, making payment of the required fee. The concerned officer is bound by law to furnish the required information to the applicant within the stipulated time. This provides greater transparency in the conduct of the law of the land. The salient features of the RTI Act are:
THE RTI ACT IS AN ACT to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The Government has assessed the necessity to to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal; and also appreciates that revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;
The RTI Act provides for an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;
To provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
With the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the fact that the right to information is a fundamental right flowing from Articles 19(i)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India has now been well settled. The ultimate aim of the Right to Information Act is to have a well informed citizenry, which is aware of its rights, and well trained officers of public authorities who are aware of their duties and functions under the Act. A Government committed to effective implementation of the Act together with active participation of non-governmental organizations and other activists and with an active Information Commission would be able to achieve the desired results. The State Information Commission, Kerala, which came into being on 21-12-2005 is on the forefront to achieve the goals enshrined in the Right to Information Act, 2005 to mould an informed citizenry, to promote transparency of information held by or under the control of the public authorities, contain corruption, and to hold governments and its instrumentalities accountable to the governed.
Some Important Aspects
Overriding effect of the Act
The provisions of the RTI Act shall have effect not withstanding any thing inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or any instrument by virtue of any law other than this act. An application for information received under the RTI Act can be rejected only for any of the reasons u/s 8 or 9 of the Act. The application can not be rejected under the Provisions of any other law.
Bar of Jurisdiction of Courts
No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceedings in respect of any order made under this act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under the RTI Act. The decision of the State Public Information Officer shall be called in question only by an appeal before the Appellate Authority u/s 19(1) of the Act and the decision of the Appellate Authority shall be called in question only by way of an appeal before the State Information Commission u/s 19(3) of the Act.
By virtue of the powers vested under section 24 of RTI Act, Government of Kerala, have exempted the following organizations from the purview of the Act.
1. Special Branch CID
2. Crime Branch CID
3. District Special Branches of all Districts/Cities
4. District and Crime Record Bureau
5. Police Telecommunication Unit
6. Confidential Branch in the Police Headquarters, Kerala and Confidential sections in all Police Offices in Kerala
7. State and Regional Forensic Science Laboratories
8. State and District Finger Print Bureau
However, the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations are not exempted from disclosure in the case of these exempted organisations. In the case of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall be provided only after the approval of the State Information Commission and the information shall be provided within 45 days from the receipt of request.
How to make a request for information under the RTI Act
1. The request shall be in writing or through electronic means in English or Malayalam or in the official language of the area in which the application is made.
2. The full name, address, particulars of information required and other relevant reference, if any, are to be clearly specified in the application.
3. The application shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee.
Govt. of Kerala have prescribed the Kerala Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and cost) Rules, 2006. The application fee is Rs.10/- The application fee shall be paid in any of the following manners.
a. by affixing court fee stamp; or
b. by remitting the amount in the Government Treasury, under the head of account ” 0070 other administrative services – 60 other services – 800 other receipts – 42 other items” ; or 36 – Receipts under RTI Act, 2005.
c. by cash remittance against proper receipt in the office of the State Public Information Officer/ State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be; or
d. by demand draft/bankers’ cheque /pay order payable to the State Public Information Officer/State Assistant Public Information Officer;
Provided that in the case of public authorities other than the Government Departments, the fee shall be remitted to the account of such public authority as provided in (c) & (d) above.
4. The application shall be made to the State Public Information Officer of the concerned Public Authority or the State Asstt. Public Information Officer as the case may be, specifying the particulars of information sought for by him.
5. Where the applicant cannot make the request in writing, the State Public Information Officer shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request to reduce the oral request into a written request.
6. Person’s below poverty line are not required to remit the application fee. However, they are required to produce BPL certificate from the Block Development Officer for those persons residing in rural areas and, from the Secretary of the Corporation/Municipality for those residing in Corporation/Municipal area, respectively.
6. An applicant 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.
Disposal of the Request
1. On receipt of a request for information, the State Public Information Officer shall either give the information on payment of the prescribed fee or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request.
2. Where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person , the same shall be given within 48 hours of the receipt of the request.
3. If the decision on the request for information is not given within the prescribed time limit, the request shall be deemed to have been refused.
4. Where a decision is taken to provide the information on payment of the cost of providing the information, the Public Information Officer shall send an intimation to the person making the request giving details of the fee representing the cost of providing the information and the calculation made to arrive at the amount, requesting him to deposit the fees. The period intervening between the despatch of the above intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the purpose of maximum period in determining the time limit for providing the information.
Fee for providing information
For providing information, the public authority shall charge the fee at the following rates, in case no separate fee is prescribed:
a) rupees two for each page in ‘A4’ size paper.
b) actual charge or cost price of the copy in larger size paper.
c) actual cost or price for samples or models, maps, plans etc.
d) for inspection of records, no fee for the first hour; and a fee of rupees ten for every subsequent thirty minutes or fraction thereof.
Provided that in the case of public authorities other than the Government Departments, the fee shall be remitted to the account of such public authority as provided in clause (c) and (d) of rule 3 of the Kerala Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost Rules), 2006.
No fees shall be charged from person Below Poverty Line
Persons below poverty line are exempted from payment of application fee and also the fee for providing the information. The Government of Kerala have authorized the Block Development Officers as the competent authority to issue eligibility certificate to those below poverty line in rural areas and, the Secretary of the Corporation/Municipality for those below poverty line in Corporation/Municipal area.
Information is free if the time limit is exceeded
The information shall be provided free of cost where a Public Authority fails to comply with the prescribed time limit.
Rejection of a request
Where a request is rejected, the State Public Information Officer shall inform the person making the request -
a. the reason for such rejection
b. period within which the appeal may be preferred; and
c. the particulars of Appellate Authority.
For further information, kindly contact ‘The RTI Act Help Desk India’