Right to Information (RTI) Act

Right to Information (RTI) Act

What is the Right to Information (RTI) Act?

  • The Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.
  • The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in a real sense.
  • The act envisages building better-informed citizens who would keep necessary vigil about the functioning of the government machinery.
  • The right to information is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution. In 1976, in the Raj Narain vs the State of Uttar Pradesh case, the Supreme Court ruled that Right to information will be treated as a fundamental right under article 19.
  • Nodal agency– Department of Personnel and Training under Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Rights under RTI act?

  • Seek any information which is held by any public authority.
  • Take copies of government documents.
  • Inspect works, documents, and records of government.
  • Take notes, extracts, or certified copies of government documents or records.
  • Take certified samples of Government work.
  • Obtain information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes, or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.

What are the issues with RTI ACT?

  • Dependency– The RTI Act’s implementation is dependent on subordinate Rules made by the Union and State Governments.
    • Example- What payment method a public authority can accept is left to the States to decide.
  • Complexity- Tamil Nadu do not accept Indian Postal Orders (IPOs), which are cheques that can be bought at many post offices, and attached to an application as payment.
  • Inconvenient payment methods – Court fee stamps, for instance, can only be purchased at a courthouse.
  • Delayed appointments– Delayed appointments in CIC, and SICs have undermined the confidence in the framework.
    • Due to delayed appointments, the appeals can take months or years to be heard.
  • The Jharkhand SIC, had no commissioners to hear appeals since 2020, essentially suspending the ability to appeal
  • Lack of Online RTIs– Many States do not have an online RTI portal, and many State Government bodies are not registered in the portal.
  • Lack of flexibility– Filing applications in Union government’s RTI portal has become harder.
    • The facility to create an account has disappeared, and the site forces all users to enter their particulars afresh each time they file an application.
  • Loss of data– The past data of applicants has been stuttering in and out of the portal. Recently, data of applications filed by users before 2022 disappeared without a trace, which was later restored.
  • Unfriendly site– RTI portal site is still slow, and at least one user who lost his account entirely has been complaining that data of his applications and appeals are still not showing up on the site.
  • Dissatisfaction- Dissatisfaction is growing at the most basic level as more and more first appeals are being filed.
  • Low awareness- As per survey it was revealed that only 15% of the respondents were aware of the RTI Act.

Recent Amendments :Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2019

  • The Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2019 granted the Union Government the power to decide the tenure and salaries of information commissioners. Information commissioners are crucial in the RTI framework as they hear appeals against unsatisfactory or absent RTI responses.
  • Granting the Union Government unilateral power in these matters raises concerns about the potential for political interference and compromise of the independence of these commissioners. An independent and impartial information commission is essential for ensuring the fair and transparent functioning of the RTI Act.

Implementation and Subordinate Rules

The effectiveness of the RTI Act depends not only on the central law but also on the rules and practices set by the Union and State Governments. One practical issue is the variation in payment methods accepted for RTI applications. For example, some states, like Tamil Nadu, do not accept Indian Postal Orders (IPOs), which are a convenient and widely accessible payment method. Instead, they may require alternative, less convenient methods like court fee stamps or demand drafts, which can be burdensome for applicants. These disparities in payment methods can create inequalities in access to the RTI process.


Delays in appointing members to information commissions, both at the central and state levels, have a detrimental impact on the RTI framework. Information commissions are responsible for hearing appeals, and significant delays can lead to a backlog of cases. For example, the absence of commissioners in the Jharkhand State Information Commission (SIC) since May 2020 has essentially paralyzed the ability to appeal administrative issues related to the RTI Act in that state. Timely appointments are crucial for maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the RTI system.

Online RTIs

  • While online filing of RTI applications can simplify the process and reduce barriers for citizens, its implementation varies across states. Many states do not have online RTI portals, which means citizens in those regions may not have access to this convenient option. Additionally, even in states with online portals, some government bodies may not be registered on these platforms, limiting the scope of online RTI applications.
  • Technical issues with the Union Government’s RTI portal, such as the disappearance of past application data and changes in user account features, have created challenges for users.