In pursuance of their policy of colonization, exploitation, discrimination and subjugation the British Government in 1923 had imposed “The Official Secrets Act, 1923” which provided that “If any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety of interests of the State approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the vicinity of or enters any prohibited place or makes any sketch, plan, model or note, obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which might be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy or which relates to a matter the disclosure of which is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state or friendly relation with foreign states shall be punishable with imprisonment……..to fourteen years and in other cases, to three years.
Under the guise of this Act red-tapism, malpractices, highhandedness, favoritism and above all deep rooted corruption in the worst and unprecedented form flourished. As a remedial measures “An Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commission and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto whereas the Constitution of India has established democratic republic and whereas democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to control corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the Governments and whereas revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests while preserving the paramount’s of democratic ideal, now, therefore, it is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it. This was enacted by the parliament in fifty-sixth year of the Republic of India as follows:
This act may be called “The right to information Act, 2005”. It extends to whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Subject to the provisions of this Act all citizens shall have the right to information. Every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records are appropriate to be computerized within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources to be computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated.
Every public authority shall, within 100 days of the enactment of this Act designate as many officers as Central public Information Offices or State Public Information Offices as the case may be, in all administrative units or officers under it as may be necessary to provide information to persons requesting for the information under this Act. A person who desires to obtain information under this Act shall make a request in writing or through electronic means accompanying the required fees as may be prescribed for the purpose.
The Central public Information Offices or the State Public Information Offices, as the case may be, on receipt of the request shall, as expeditiously as possible and within 30 days of the receipt of the request, either provided the information or shall reject the request on legitimate ground as provided under the Act.
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act there shall be no obligation to give any citizen an information disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic or scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence. Without prejudice to the provisions of the Act a request for information providing access which involves infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the state is liable to be rejected. When a request for information is rejected on the ground that the required information is exempt from disclosure, access may be provided to such part of the record which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.
When public Information Office intends to disclose any information or record or part thereof on a request made under this Act which relates or has been supplied by a third party that he intends to disclose the information or record or part thereof and invite the third party make a submission in writing or verbally regarding whether the information should be disclosed or not.
Hardly had “ The Right to Information Act 2005” come into force and the preliminaries are yet to be completed there is an unrest and repurge against the provisions of the act among those whose derogatory powers may come under scrutiny and as such pressure tactics was adopted. Under the pressure of bureaucracy the Central Government decided to present a Bill in the parliament for amendment in most important clauses of the Act. This is an irony of fate that the Government under the influence and pressure of its Bureaucrats overlooking the welfare and wishes of the people whom they represent and for whom they stand should have surrendered. It was pretended that objections and submissions from the public were being studied but the fact is that the bill for amendments in the Act was for the appeasement of the ruling bureaucrats in order maintain their supremacy at the cost of general public.
Under the pressure of the left parties who are also allies of the government the amendment bill has put off. But it has not been withdrawn. It is highly disappointing that a government that claims to be the government of the people, for the people should ignore the wishes of the people merely for the appeasement of a few bureaucrats. Our government is wedded to the principle of establishing a welfare society and achieve Gandhi ji’s dream of “Ram Rajya”. Then how can it afford to ignore the wishes of the people? They should instead provide means to make the poor sum of the “Right to Information Act” more and more effective to curb the highhandedness of bureaucrats and timely control corruption which has become so rampant that it is feared that it may not become order of the day.
Shri Vajahet Habibullah, Chief Information commissioner has suggested that there should be proper utilization of the Right to Information Act and that the information received under the act should not be misused. Information received should not be used as pressurizing tool against the Government machinery. The act should not be misunderstand as a surrender by the Govt. On the other hand the State Chief Information Commissioner, U.P. Justice Muhammed Asgher Khan has expressed his view that looking to the functioning of the government. He has pleased for more power to be vested in the commission to make the Information Act a success.
In a conference arranged by the public Relations Society of India in AMITY premises Mr. Habibullah explained in detail the various provisions of “The Right to Information Act”. He expressed that the Act would provide an opportunity to gather information from a single window. Information gathered should be directed towards cooperation with the government so that there may be transparency is their functioning. He asserted that the act has changed the definition of the master and servant, of the employer and the employee. Bureaucrats, who used to treat the public as their servants will have to change their outlook. He made it clear that the role of information Commission is restricted only upto providing information. It has no jurisdiction over removal of complaints. The centre and state commission have been authorized for proper functioning and compliance of the Act and they have to see that it is properly complied.