State of the Right to Information Act 

State of the Right to Information Act 

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “State of the Right to Information Act”. The topic “State of the Right to Information Act” has relevance in the “Polity and Governance” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is the Right to Information Act?
What are recent amendments to the RTI Act? 

For Mains:

GS2:  Polity and Governance

Why in the news?

India’s RTI Act, once celebrated as one of the world’s most comprehensive transparency laws, is now facing effectiveness challenges, raising concerns about its role in holding public officials accountable.


About Right to Information Act (RTI)

The Right to Information Act (RTI) was passed by the Indian Parliament in May 2005. It gives citizens the right to access information held by public authorities, except in cases where the information is exempted under the Act. The RTI Act aims to promote transparency and accountability in government, and to combat corruption.

  • Coverage: The RTI Act defines a “public authority” as any body or institution that is funded by the government, or that exercises a power or function in the public interest. This includes government departments, local bodies, public corporations, and private companies that provide a public service.
  • Time Frame: Under the RTI Act, citizens can request information from a public authority in writing. The authority is required to provide the information within 30 days, or give reasons for refusing to do so. If the citizen is not satisfied with the response, they can appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC) or the State Information Commission (SIC).
  • Information covered by the Act: The Act defines information broadly to include any material in any form, such as documents, records, emails, samples, etc. It also allows partial access to exempted information and disclosure of information in public interest.
  • Information Commissions and penalties: The Act establishes Central and State Information Commissions to receive complaints, conduct inquiries and impose penalties. The Commissions have the powers of civil courts and can recommend disciplinary action against erring PIOs.
  • The RTI Act has been hailed as a major step forward in promoting transparency and accountability in government. It has helped to expose corruption and inefficiency, and has empowered citizens to hold their governments to account.

Achievements of RTI Act: 

  • The number of RTI applications filed has increased steadily since the Act came into force. In 2021, a total of 3.2 million RTI applications were filed, up from 0.2 million in 2006.
  • RTI applications have led to the uncovering of several scams and irregularities, including the 2G spectrum scam, the coal block allocation scam, and the Adarsh Housing Society scam.
  • RTI applications have also helped to improve the delivery of government services. For example, RTI applications have led to the closure of fake schools, the provision of benefits to eligible beneficiaries.


Earlier Problems with regard to the Right to Information Act (RTI):

  • Limited applicability to political parties: The RTI Act does not apply to political parties, which are considered to be private bodies. It allows political parties to operate in secrecy and makes it difficult to hold them accountable.
  • Broad exemptions for the judiciary: The RTI Act does not apply to the judiciary, except for information that is related to the administration of justice. It undermines the public’s right to know about how the judiciary operates.
  • Broad exemptions for intelligence agencies:  The RTI Act does not apply to intelligence agencies, except for information that is related to the security of the state. This exemption has been justified on the grounds that it is necessary to protect national security. However, transparency activists argue that it allows intelligence agencies to operate in secrecy and makes it difficult to hold them accountable.
  • Lack of awareness: Many people in India are not aware of the RTI Act, or they do not know how to use it. This makes it difficult for them to exercise their right to information.
  • Delays in responding to requests: Public authorities often take a long time to respond to RTI requests. This can be frustrating for citizens, and it can also make it difficult to hold public authorities accountable.
  • Denial of information: Public authorities sometimes deny RTI requests, even when the information is not exempted under the Act. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as a desire to protect their own interests or to avoid embarrassment.
  • Harassment of RTI applicants: RTI applicants are sometimes harassed by public authorities, such as by being threatened with legal action or by being denied government services. This can discourage people from exercising their right to information.

Recent Issues relating to amendments and Implementation of RTI Act: 

  • Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 prohibits the disclosure of personal data of citizens by the government, even if there is a public interest. This could hamper social audits and accountability of public officials.
  • Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the Union Government the power to decide the tenure and salary of information commissioners, who hear appeals under the RTI Act. This could compromise their independence and autonomy.
  • Issues with RTI Implementation:
    • Dependance on subordinate Rules set by Union and State Governments.
    • Delayed appointments to information commissions, affecting the timely resolution of appeals.
    • Inadequate online RTI portals and difficulties in filing applications and accessing information.

While the RTI Act has been instrumental in advancing transparency and accountability in Indian governance, there is a pressing need to address its shortcomings and ensure that it continues to serve as a robust tool for citizens to hold public officials accountable and promote good governance in the country. 


Sources: Explained | Has the Right to Information been weakened over the years? – The Hindu 


Q1. With reference to Right to Information Act (RTI), consider the following statements: 

  1. Citizens have the right to access information held by public authorities under the Right to Information Act.
  2. The RTI Act defines a “public authority” as any government-funded body or institution.
  3. The definition of “public authority” excludes private companies that provide a public service.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (a) 


Q2. Consider the following: 

  1. Local bodies
  2. Public corporations
  3. Supreme Court Collegium
  4. Private companies
  5. National and State Political Parties

How many of the above mentioned institutions come under the ambit of RTI act?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) Only four

(d) All five

Answer: (b)

Q3. Discuss the Right to Information Act (RTI) highlighting its achievements and challenges related to recent amendments. SUggest measures to ensure effectiveness of RTI. 

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