RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Tamil Nadu worst performer in RTI responsiveness


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: RTI

Mains level: Issues in RTI implementation


The State Information Commission of Tamil Nadu has been the worst performing as far as responsiveness under the RTI Act is concerned, furnishing only 14% of the information sought for 2021-22.

State’s responses to RTI

  • Maharashtra was second-worst, sharing 23% of the information asked for.
  • Only 10 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment.
  • These included Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand and northeastern States of Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura.
  • Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh returned around 40% of the appeals or complaints received by them.

What is the Right to Information (RTI)?

  • RTI is an act of the parliament that sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
  • It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
  • Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30.
  • In case of a matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.
  • The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.

What led to the introduction of RTI in India?

There has been a variety of internal and external pressures on governments to adopt RTI.

  • Corruption and scandals: The crisis was brought into force due to a lack of transparency in the working of the government.
  • Modernization and the Information Society: The expansion of the Internet into everyday life has increased the demand for more information by the public, businesses and civil society groups.
  • International pressure: The World Bank, the IMF and others have pressed countries to adopt laws to reduce corruption and to make financial systems more accountable.
  • Wider recognition of Public Interest: Public interest is a nebulous concept, not defined in any freedom of information laws, understandably so, as it is a very subjective concept.

Governing of the RTI

The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies:

  1. Central Information Commission (CIC) – Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India.
  2. State Information Commissions (SIC)– State Public Information Officers or SPIOs head over all the state department and ministries. The SPIO office is directly under the corresponding State Governor.

State and CIC are independent bodies and CIC has no jurisdiction over the SIC.

Constitutional backing of the RTI

  • The Indian constitution has an impressive array of basic and inalienable rights termed as fundamental rights contained in part-III.
  • These include the right to equal protection of the laws and the right to equality before the law, the right to freedom of speech and expression also the right to life and personal liberty.
  • Since RTI, is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, it is an implied FR.
  • These are backed by the right to constitutional remedies that is, the right to approach the supreme court and high court under Article 32 and 226 respectively in case of infringement of any of FRs.
  • The state is not only under an obligation to respect the FRs of the citizens but also equally under an obligation to ensure conditions under which the right can be exercised.
  • The objective of the right to information act is to protect these constitutional rights.

Benefits of RTI

  • Greater accessibility of information: A person can seek information from any public authority in the form of copies, floppy disks, sample material etc under RTI.
  • Efficient governance: RTI Act helps us in knowing the efficiency of the government functioning.RTI has become a reality consistent with the objectives of having a stable, honest, transparent and efficient government.
  • Citizen’s participation: Information under RTI can be sought easily by requesting the public officer and assistant public officer in any public authority.
  • Government obligation: Obtaining information from any public authority is obligatory for them.
  • Maintenance of public record: Under RTI Act, it is the duty of public authorities to maintain records for easy access and to publish within 120 days the name of the particular officers who should give the information and in regard to the framing of the rules, regulations etc.
  • Empowerment of Citizens: Every citizen has been empowered to be informed about anything that affects their life directly or indirectly.

Limitations to the RTI

  • Not an absolute right:  The RTI and Right to Privacy are not absolute rights, both the rights, one of which falls under Article 19(l)(a) and the other under Article 21 can obviously be regulated, restricted and curtailed in the larger public interest.
  • Subjected to restrictions: The RTI, being integral part of the right to freedom of speech, is subject to restrictions that can be imposed upon that right under Article 19 (2).
  • Limitations under the rules: Rule 4 of RTI Act puts word limit (No. of words needed in different language is different to express the same idea) as 250 words.  Word Limit, The Hidden power of Information Officer, is the cause of rejection of an application.
  • Only information already available on record is accessible: The RTI Act provides access only to that information that existent and is available in records of the public authorities.
  • Certain information may constitute contempt of court: Any information, the disclosure of which is expressly barred by any Court of law or tribunal or, which may constitute contempt of Court under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, cannot be released.
  • Information causes a breach of privilege: The Constitution of India provides some privileges to the Parliament and the State Legislature, so it is clear that such information cannot be issued by the public authority.
  • Information relating to Intellectual Property and trade secrets: Any information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property cannot be disclosed.

Way Forward

  • Speedy disposal: The increasing backlog of cases is exacerbated by the fact that most Commissions are functioning at reduced capacity.
  • Prioritization of cases: There should be a prioritization of cases dealing with information related to life and liberty.
  • Digitalization: Governments should put in place a mechanism for online filing of RTI applications and bring all authorities under one platform.
  • Reducing technicalities: The technicalities of filing an RTI application should be more simplified. The literacy rate of rural India is quite low and thus they find it quite difficult to comply with the procedural.
  • Protecting whistleblowers: There is an urgent need to protect the whistle blowers who are targeted or attacked so easily.


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