By Manju Gupta
The Right to Information Act 2005: A Handbook, Sudhir Naib, Oxford University Press, Pp 329, Rs 795.00
This is a resource book which is a must for all pubic information officers and information commissioners as it presents a comprehensive analysis of the RTI Act.
Passed by India’s Parliament in 2005, the Right to Information Act has made it the right of every citizen of India to access information held by or under the control of not only the executive but also of the judiciary and the legislature, from the office of the President of India to that of the humblest village council. The Right to Information is increasingly considered an inseparable part of any public participation in the process of governance and hence of development.
The book discusses the Central Information Commission and court decisions which are particularly useful for public information officers and appellate authorities who need to be aware of how the commissions and courts interpret the law, so that their own decisions can be made accordingly.
The opening chapter ‘Freedom of Information: A Global Perspective’ summarises the growth, development and present trends of the papers towards the universal applicability of this doctrine in a global context. It discusses the historical evolution of FoI (Freedom of Information) starting with Swedish Freedom of the Press Act in 1766. There has been a significant increase in recognising the importance of access to information both as a human right and as an important right to promote good governance and fight corruption. The discussion here reveals that the movement towards greater openness in access to information is global and the growth in the number of countries that have adopted such laws in the last decade has been phenomenal. The general public can find more about the decisions that affect their lives and ensure that the public authorities become accountable for their actions. This chapter also discusses efforts made by international bodies for adoption of FoI, benefits of FoI laws and issues in the implementation of FoI laws.
The second chapter traces the origins of the RTI movement starting from Devdungri in Rajasamund district of Rajasthan from 1987 till the passing of the RTI Act in 2005. A comprehensive analysis of such Acts adopted by nine Indian states has been done which shows that the provisions of the RTI Act of 2005 are much better than the state laws. Thus, with the passage of the National Act, the state laws have either lapsed or are being repealed.
The fourth chapter provides comprehensive guidelines for public authorities and their objections under the Act.
The fifth chapter covers Central Information Commission’s decision and Government of India institutions relating to Public Information Officers and their role. This chapter covers inter-alia procedures for disposal of request, time limit for supply of information and implications for non-adherence to the provisions of the Act.
Chapter 6 covers general points required to be kept in view while applying exemptions for disclosure under Section 8(1). It also looks into cases where exemptions can be waived when public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
Chapter 7 deals with the various categories of information which are exempted from disclosure. Each of these exemptions is discussed in detail.
The last chapter covers procedures regarding disposal of first appeal by the Department Appellate Authority and for disposal of second appeal by the Information Commissioner.
(Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001; www.oup.com)