Political convenience shouldn’t lead to exemptions from RTI

The Right to Information Act, 2005 says nothing contained in the RTI Act will apply on the organization which are listed in the second schedule of the Section 24, provided that the information (any material in any form) held by or under the control of the public authorities related to allegations of corruption and human rights violation shall not be covered under the exemption.

Recent inclusion of CBI in the list of exempted organizations is one of the most debated as it primarily deals with corruption cases which are not covered in the protection given to organizations under Section 24 of the RTI Act.

Subsequently, a two-member committee constituted by the CIC has said that such decisions (inclusion of CBI in the list of exempted organizations) to shield organizations from the transparency law should not be the result of “political convenience or other extraneous factors“.

Quick Reference

Section 24: Act not to apply to certain organizations

  1. Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organizations specified in the Second Schedule, being organizations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organizations to that Government: Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub‑section: Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission, and notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, such information shall be provided within forty five days from the date of the receipt of request.
  2. The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, amend the Schedule by including therein any other intelligence or security organization established by that Government or omitting there from any organization already specified therein and on the publication of such notification, such organization shall be deemed to be included in or, as the case may be, omitted from the Schedule.
  3. Every notification issued under sub‑section (2) shall be laid before each House of Parliament.
  4. Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to such intelligence and security organizations, being organizations established by the State Government, as that Government may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify: Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub‑section: Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the State Information Commission and, notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, such information shall be provided within forty five days from the date of the receipt of request.
  5. Every notification issued under sub‑section (4) shall be laid before the State Legislature.

Give Reasons for Seeking Information under RTI Act: Madras HC

Section 6 (2) of the RTI Act says, an applicant making request for information “shall not” be required to give any reason for requesting the information. However, the Madras High Court has said RTI applicants must give reasons for seeking information as it gave relief to its Registry from disclosing file notings on a complaint against a chief metropolitan magistrate.

A division bench comprising Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and K. Ravichandrababu said an applicant must disclose the object for which information is sought and also satisfy that such object has a legal backing, a decision which may have far reaching implications on getting information under the RTI Act and which was decried by legal experts and activists.

Further, it was observed by the bench that, “If information are to be furnished to a person, who does not have any reason or object behind seeking such information, in our considered view, the intention of the Legislature is not to the effect that such information are to be given like pamphlets to any person unmindful of the object behind seeking such information,”

Though Section 6 (2) doesn’t mandate the reason for requesting information, HC order was silent on Section 6 (2). It was held that, “We should not be mistaken as if we are saying something against the intention of the Legislature. What we want to emphasise is that a Legislation, more particularly, the one on hand, must achieve the object, viz, concrete and effective functioning of the public authority with transparency and accountability by providing the information which are under the control of such public authorities”.