The Right to information

The right to information is implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution of India. It is implicit in the constitutionally enshrined Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and Right to Life and Liberty supported by the Right to Constitutional Remedies (Art. 32), i.e. Right to approach the Supreme Court and High Court in case of infringement of any of these rights. Dynamic interpretation of these Articles by the Supreme Court over the years has lead to the development of the Rule of Law in India. The RTI Act prevails over provisions of any other law that are inconsistent with it.

The Parliament of India with the objective “to provide for setting out a practical regime of right to information for citizens.” enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005 . While some provisions of the Act came into force from the date of enactment of the Act on 15th June, 2005, the complete Act came into force with effect from one hundred and twentieth day of its enactment. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own Act.

The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency band accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption and make democracy work for the people in real sense. No democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of the government. The citizens’ right to know the facts about the administration of the country thus, is one of the pillars of a democratic state and that is why the demand for openness in the government is increasingly growing in different parts of the world.

The Act seeks to promote a culture of openness within the government and demands the public authority to publish and disseminate key categories of information of significant public interest pro-actively.

The General Administration (Administrative Reforms) Department, Government of Tripura vide No. F.3[5] GA[AR] /2005[ L] notified The Tripura Right to Information Rules, 2005. in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 27 of the Right to Information Act, 2005. In 2008, the Government of Tripura notified a new set of rules viz The Tripura Right to Information Rules, 2008 which was published in the official gazette on 4 February 2008 and came into force from that date.

Under Sec.15(3) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Government of Tripura constituted State Information Commission in January, 2006 with Shri B. K. Chakraborty, IAS(Retd) former Commissioner and Secretary to Government of Tripura as Chief Information Commissioner and Shri D. K. Das choudhury TJS(Retd)as State Information Commissioner vide No.F.3(5)-GA(AR)/2005/P-III dated 10.10.2005. The G.A.(A.R.) Department immediately formulated the Tripura Right to Information Rules for effective implementation of the Act in the State. However, these Rules were modified and further fine tuned to remove any ambiguity and finally, the Tripura Right to Information Rules 2008 with designed formats as per provisions of the Act were published in the official gazette of the State on 04.02.2008. The two Member Commission continued to function till 11.10.2009 and Shri B. K. Chakraborty, Chief Information Commissioner was the lone Member after completion of term of Shri D. K. Daschoudhury, State Information Commissioner on 11.10.2009.

Shri B. K. Chakraborty, Chief Information Commissioner completed his tenure of five years on 18.01.2011 and the State selected the new Commission with Shri Shashi Prakash, IAS(Retd) former Chief Secretary to the Govt. as Chief Information Commissioner and Smt. S. Banerjee, IAS(Retd), former Principal Secretary to the Govt. as State Information Commissioner who started functioning from 19.01.2011. Subsequently, Shri Shashi Prakash, Chief Information Commissioner resigned on 06.10.2011 and Smt. S. Banerjee has been functioning alone.

Brief provisions of the RTI Act :
Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request for information from a “public authority”, which is any authority or body or institution of self-government as established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution, (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—(i) body owned, controlled and substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government and the public authority is required to furnish information as expeditiously as possible and in any case within 30 days of receipt of request. The Act prescribes specific time limit within which the information has to be provided. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and quick retrieval of information so that the flow of information is smooth.

Under the Act, all Public authorities are required to appoint their Public Information Officer (PIO). Any person may submit a request to the PIO for information pertaini8ng to any public authority under the state, either in writing or orally before a Public authority who would record such oral request in writing.

It is the PIO’s obligation to provide such information to citizens who have requested for information from the public authority under the Act. If the request pertains to another public authority (in whole or part), it is the PIO’s responsibility to transfer/forward that portions of the request to the PIO of the concerned Department within a period of 5 working days. In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) to receive requests and appeals under the Act for forwarding them to the PIOs to ensure timely supply of information. The applicant is not required to disclose reasons for seeking such information and while seeking information he will provide his name and contact particulars only.

Time limits :
The Act specifies time limits for replying to the request.
• If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt.
• If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt.
• If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority (better concerned with the information requested), the time allowed to reply is 30 days but computed from the day after it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.

• Information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations by scheduled Security agencies (those listed in the Second Schedule to the Act) is to be provided within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission.
• However, if life or liberty of any person is involved, the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.
If information is not provided within this period, it is treated as deemed refusal. Refusal with or without reasons may be ground for appeal or complaint. Further, information not provided in the times prescribed is to be provided free of charge. Under the Tripura Information Rules, 2008 there is a fee of 10 for filing the request, 2 per page of information and 5 for each hour of inspection after the first hour. If the applicant is a Below Poverty Card holder, then no fee shall apply. Such BPL Card holders have to provide a copy of their BPL card along with their application to the Public Authority.

Partial disclosure :
The Act allows those part(s) of the record which are not exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from parts containing exempt information to be provided.