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In this case, that remedy is striking down the amendments and restoring the pre-amended RTI. This remedy does not amount to directing the State to legislate, and does not amount to judicial overreach. Apart from being firmly entrenched in judicial precedent, the reading in of the right to information into the freedom of speech and expression makes eminent sense as a matter of first principles. For more than a century now, one of the three core underlying justifications of the freedom of speech and expression has been its importance to democracy.

Only through the free flow of ideas and information — it is rightly argued — are citizens in a position to effectively exercise their democratic right of choosing their representatives.

It is trite to point out that if information held by State authorities is choked off from the public domain, then the bridge between the freedom of speech and democracy crumbles entirely. The right to information, therefore, is — by necessary implication — entailed within a substantive account of the freedom of speech and expression, without which the latter would be illusory much like how the right to privacy underlies numerous other civil rights — such as speech, association, movement etc.

This, again, is a venerable and incontestable proposition. It has been upheld in a number of cases. This direction was justified on the basis that NOTA was essential to maintain the secrecy of the ballot as well as the fairness of elections — both of which, in turn, were linked to the freedom to vote under Article 19 1 a.

How to file an RTI Application ?

Note that the Court specifically held that by failing to provide the NOTA option, the Conduct of Election Rules were not only ultra vires the parent statute, but also violated Article 19 1 a of the Constitution. Again, it is unnecessary to multiple examples for the proposition. Its application to the present case should be evident as well: insofar as the independence of the Information Commissioners — who stand between the individual and the State, and are tasked with the implementation of the RTI — is integral to the right to information remaining an effective right, undermining of the same is ipso facto a violation of that right.

This proposition has been affirmed by different judgments in different contexts.

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The negative obligation means the overall prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of life … [while] positive obligation requires that State has an overriding obligation to protect the right to life of every person within its territorial jurisdiction. The obligation requires the State to take administrative and all other measures in order to protect life and investigate all suspicious deaths. Negative in the sense that no one can be discriminated against anybody and everyone should be treated as equals. The latter is the core and essence of right to equality and [the] state has obligation to take necessary steps so that every individual is given equal respect and concern which he is entitled as a human being.


Examples may be multiplied. Of course, the most recent — and famous example — of this proposition is the Right to Privacy judgment and, as we shall shortly see, both the privacy judgment and the subsequent Aadhaar judgment are crucial to this argument. In Puttaswamy Privacy , Chandrachud J. The negative freedom protects the individual from unwanted intrusion.

As a positive freedom, it obliges the State to adopt suitable measures for protecting individual privacy. Let us briefly take stock. It has been established so far that the right to information is a fundamental right, under Article 19 1 a of the Constitution. The right to information includes incidental and ancillary aspects that ensure it is an effective — and not illusory — right, one of which is the independence of the individuals charged with implementing the right particularly against the State.

Let me begin this section by quickly getting a red herring out of the way. Such a move would be a blatant violation of the separation of powers, and the Court has not — and should not — resort to it. At the same time, however, the Supreme Court has devised a set of more conservative remedies to deal with situations where the State refuses to discharge its positive obligations, or discharges them in an illusory fashion.

A legendary example of the first kind of case, of course, is the Vishaka Judgment. It is important to note that the Vishaka judgment consisted of two parts. In the first part, the Court returned an affirmative finding that sexual harassment at the workplace was hit by Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. In the second part, it found that the State had failed to discharge its obligations by … doing nothing at all. Now, what did the Court do?

The Court stated that it would discharge its duty of enforcing fundamental rights under Article 32 of the Constitution by laying down guidelines, and these guidelines would be treated as law under Article until replaced by a statute something that happened many years later, in I want to make one basic point here. If Vishaka is still good law — and nobody argues that it is not — then the argument I make in this essay falls well within the scope of existing judicial precedent.

Because if the Court is entitled to make law to discharge positive obligations under Part III where the State has failed to act 1 , then surely it is entitled to strike down law that changes an existing legislative framework, bringing it into non-compliance with Part III 2. From the scope of the separation of powers and judicial overreach, the latter is far, far more restrained than the former although I submit, of course, that it is defensible on its own terms.

There is an excellent recent example of a case where the Supreme Court found an existing statute to fall below the standards required by positive obligations under Part III, and amended and struck down parts of it in order to bring it into compliance. Recall that in Aadhaar , the Supreme Court found that several aspects of the Aadhaar Act were insufficiently protective of individual data. For our purposes here, these included a a five-year storage period for metadata, and b authorisation to a Joint Secretary-level officer to disclose Aadhaar data.

What did the Court do? The RTI Act specifies that citizens have a right to: request any information as defined ; take copies of documents; inspect documents, works and records; take certified samples of materials of work; and obtain information in the form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode. Some of these State level enactments have been widely used.

At the national level, given the experience of state governments in passing practicable legislation, the Central Government appointed a working group under H. Shourie to draft legislation. The Shourie draft, in an extremely diluted form, became the basis for the Freedom of Information Bill, which eventually became law under the Freedom of Information Fol Act, Further, there was no upper limit on the charges that could be levied and there were no penalties for not complying with a request for information.

Subsequently, more than a hundred amendments to the draft Bill were made before the bill was finally passed. The Law is applicable to all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature.


The Act also 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. Right to Information entitles the applicant to the inspection of work or documents and records. It also entitles an applicant to take notes, or ask for extracts, or certified copies of any records. Since the word extracts is mentioned it would mean that the applicant is entitled to get an extract of the records sought by him.

This would, however, be subject to the provision in Section 7 9. If the information is in digital form the information could be requisitioned and provided in appropriate electronic format. At times, there may be a need to find a small amount of data in a broad range of records. In such a scenario, it may be expensive and wasteful to give photocopies of all and therefore more efficient to allow the person to search it through a request for inspection of files. The applicant could mention in the Right to Information application for inspection that she will also take copies of certain documents at the time of inspection.

The officer offering records for inspection should ensure that the applicant is informed of the file numbers. The files should be indexed and numbered as per the requirement of Section 4 1 a. As a practical measure, the PIO could also offer three dates to an applicant for inspection. All bodies, which are constituted under the Constitution or under any law or under any Government notification or all bodies, including NGOs, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government are covered. All private bodies, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government are directly covered.

Others are indirectly covered.

Media: Promoting And Protecting Right To Information

That is if a government department can access 1information from any private body under any other Act, the same can be accessed by the citizen under the RTI Act through that government department. This is because, or the first time in the history of independent India, there is a law which casts a direct accountability on the officer for non-performance. If the concerned officer does not provide information in time, a penalty of Rs per day of delay can be imposed by the Information Commissioner.

A penalty can also be imposed for providing incomplete or for rejecting your application for malafide reasons. User Tools Register Log In. Site Tools Search. Guidelines for Public Authority. How to use your Right to Information. Guidelines for First Appellate Authority. Guidelines for Public Information Officer.