a long protracted battle India finally saw the passage of the Freedom
of Information Act 2002 (FOI Act). The Act was passed in December
2002 and received the Presidential assent in January 2003. This
legislation will be uniformly applicable all over the country. However,
it is not yet operational since the Rules for this Act have not
been formulated so far.
even before the Central FOI Act was passed some of the States introduced
their own right to information legislation. The first amongst these
was Tamil Nadu (1997) which was followed by Goa (1997),
Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001),
Maharashtra (2002), Assam (2002), Madhya Pradesh
(2003) and Jammu & Kashmir (2004). Of these Madhya
Pradesh had taken steps to enact a law on this subject as early
as 1997 but failed due to lack of consent by the Centre and Maharashtra
repealed its earlier RTI Act of 2000 to bring out a stronger one
importance and the need of the law cannot be overemphasised or undermined.
The legal basis of this right could be traced to the Constitution
of India where right to information is a fundamental right. While
the Indian Constitution does not explicitly provide for this, the
Supreme Court has through its various judgments interpreted this
right to be flowing from Article 19 (1) (a) which states that "all
citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression".
This means that the people have the right to talk about things freely,
the right to express oneself freely whether by writing, speaking,
drawing, painting, broadcasting, singing and so on. This right also
includes the right to express an opinion on anything. The right
to free speech and expression includes the right to know, because
unless we know about something we cannot express anything about
it or protest against it. Right to information is also seen to flow
from Article 21 of right to life and liberty that means that one
has a right to all those things by which one's life is protected
and one can live a life of dignity. This also includes the right
to know about things which affect our lives closely.
are however no set procedures or systems for getting information.
That is why we need a law which lays down procedures which enable
both the government functionaries to discharge their duty to give
information easily as well as enable citizens to get information
without running from pillar to post.
main objectives of a law on right to information is to operationalise
the fundamental right to information; to set up systems and mechanisms
that facilitate peoples' easy access to information; to promote
transparency and accountability in governance; to minimise corruption
and inefficiency in public offices and to enable people's participation
in governance and that a piece meal legislation does not work -
a comprehensive law required.
right to information in India is restricted by the Official Secrets
Act which is a colonial hangover from the past. A colonial culture
of secrecy has permeated every government structure that severely
encroaches upon our right to be informed and to get information
from the government departments. Adding to the woes is the Indian
Evidence Act and the civil services Code of Conduct Rules etc.
such prevailing scenario, it is heartening to know that eight states
in India have passed right to information law to streamline rules
and procedures for the people to access information from the government
departments. It will pave the way for more transparency and accountability
in our corroded institutions and instil faith in our democracy in
the long run.
to view the Comparative Table on the Right to Information Legislations
in India. Click here
to view the Comparative Table of Exemption Clauses in Indian RTI
Central and State right to information Acts are given below in order
Assam Right to Information Act (2002)
Of Practice On Access To Information, Government Of Uttar Pradesh
Right to Information Act (2001)
of Information Act (2002) (Central Act)
Right to Information Act (1997)
& Kashmir Right to Information Act (2004)
Right to Information Act (2000)
Pradesh Jankari Ki Swatantrata Adhiniyam (2002)
Right to Information Act (2003)
Right to Information Act (2000)
Nadu Right To Information Act (1997)