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India’s RTI Act is In Trouble

India’s RTI Act is In Trouble

NEW DELHI, (IANS) – As the RTI Act completes 17 years of giving common people the right to know about the acts of omission and commission by government officials, it is facing a plethora of issues ranging from pending cases to rejection of applications.

The RTI’s journey, from where hardly anything was rejected to the spiraling backlog of the present times, points at the functioning of the commissions set up under it.

What is the RTI Act?

Right to Information means the right of a citizen to seek any information accessible under this Act and includes the right to inspection of work, documents, and records.

What is Central Information Commission?

The Central Information Commission (CIC) is a statutory body, set up under the Right to Information Act in 2005 to act upon complaints from those who have not been able to submit information requests to a central public information officer or state public information officer. The reason for this could be due to either the officer not having been appointed or because the respective central assistant public information officer or state assistant public information officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act. The commission includes one Chief Information Commissioner and not more than 10 information commissioners who are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the PM.

Notable rejections of RTI

As per the Commission’s annual report of 2020-21, the Ministry of Finance received 1,70,547 RTI requests and 17,252 of them — 10.12 percent of the applications — were turned down.

The Ministry of Home Affairs got 59,286 applications, out of which 8,711, or 14.69 percent, were rejected.

The Prime Minister’s Office received 11,686 applications of which 609, nearly 5.21 percent, were dismissed.

The Ministry of External Affairs rejected 583 of its 10,811 applications, which is 5.39 percent.

Recent legal battles on RTI

*As per the latest court order on July 7, the Delhi High Court had stayed an order directing the Income Tax department to provide details on the tax exemption granted to the PM CARES fund in accordance with the RTI Act.

*The Delhi High Court had down a plea challenging the CIC order, which denied details connected with the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court.

*Pending from last year, is an RTI application seeking information on electronic surveillance ordered under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act.

*In January, the high court refused to stay an order of the CIC which allowed a petitioner to get to know the financial records and salaries of members and staff of Hockey India through the RTI Act.

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