Introduction and Historical Background
There are seven unique elements of “governance” outlined by a World Bank Report1 in the year 1992, two of which are accountability as well as transparency & information in its pursuit of “good governance.” Historically speaking, public outrage over the repression of information, press censorship, and misuse of authority during the Internal Emergency of 1975—1977 led to the first political adherence to the citizen’s right to information that emerged on the eve of the Lok Sabha Elections in 19772.
The UPA Government’s Common Minimum Programme included a commitment to the Right to Information, and the National Advisory Council (NAC), which was presided over by Congress President Sonia Gandhi until March 2006, handled a large portion of the necessary work. On 15-06-2005, the Parliament passed the Right to Information Act, 2005, and ten days later the President gave his assent. 3
Right To Information Act, 20054
The Act went into effect on 12-10-2005, and some provisions, such as the appointment of Public Information Officers, the creation of Central and State Information Commissions, the exclusion of Intelligence and Security Organisations from its application, and the authority to make rules to carry out its provisions, went into immediate effect. The legislative intent of the Act is to establish an operational structure for securing citizens’ access to information under the authority of public authorities and to advance openness, accountability, and transparency in governmental operations.
Latest Interesting Judgments on Right to Information 5
Chargesheets and final reports not equivalent to FIRs can't be published on State Websites for public access
In a plea seeking free public access to chargesheets and final reports filed as per Section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code, the bench of MR Shah and CT Ravikumar, JJ. has held that the States cannot be directed to put such information on their websites. Read More..
[Saurav Das v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 58]
All collegium discussions can't be in public domain; only final decisions are to be uploaded on SC website
In a matter seeking disclosure of details of the Supreme Court Collegium's meeting dated 12.12.2018, the bench of MR Shah and CT Ravikumar, JJ has held that unless any Collegium discussion culminates into a final decision, the discussion shall not be disclosed to the public. As per the Resolution dated 03.10.2017, only the final resolution and the final decision is required to be uploaded on the Supreme Court's website. Read More..
[Anjali Bhardwaj v. CPIO, Supreme Court of India (RTI Cell), 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1698]
Right to Information vis-a-vis Right to Privacy; SC invokes doctrine of ex debito justitiae to hear HDFC's plea challenging RBI directions mandating disclosure of confidential & sensitive information
In a case raising a significant question of law as to whether the Supreme Court's decision can be challenged in a writ petition after attaining finality? The Division Bench of B.R. Gavai* and C.T. Ravikumar, JJ., rejected the interlocutory application challenging the maintainability of the writ petition while holding that though the concept of the finality of judgment must be preserved, at the same time, the principle of “ex debito justitiae1” cannot be given a go bye. The Court added “To err is human, and the Courts including the Apex Court are no exception.” Read More..
[HDFC Bank Ltd. v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1337]
Fraudulent Trading| SEBI must disclose all relevant material, including Investigation Report to noticee except certain sensitive information
In a case where the Court was dealing with the violation of the provisions of the SEBI (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices) Regulations 2003 [PFUTP Regulations], the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has held that as a general rule, SEBI is duty bound to disclose all the relevant material, including the Investigation Report, in order to give a reasonable opportunity to be heard to the notice. However, as an exception, it can redact information that impinges on third parties. Read More..
[T. Takano v. SEBI, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 210]
Information held on the judicial side of the Court cannot be accessed under the RTI Act regime
In an application filed by respondent 2 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 seeking information pertaining to certain appeals decided by the High Court along with all relevant documents and certified copies, Respondent 2 not being a party in any of the matters in respect of which the information was sought, a full judge bench of R Banumathi*, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., held that information held on the judicial side is ‘personal information' of the litigants and courts hold it as a trustee for the litigants in order to adjudicate upon the matter and administer justice.
[Chief Information Commissioner v. High Court of Gujarat, (2020) 4 SCC 702]
Information regarding the appointment SC & HC judges is ‘third party information', compliance of S. 11 (1) RTI Act is must
In a batch of appeals filed by the Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India, pertaining to the right to know, right to privacy and transparency, accountability, and independence of the judiciary. The appeals were filed challenging the order passed by the Central Information Commission directing the disclosure of information relating to the appointment of certain judges to the Supreme Court, declaration of assets in the form of their real estate or investments, held in their names and in their spouses or any person dependent on them to the Chief Justice of the Court within a reasonable time. A full bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ., N V Ramana, Dr. D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, JJ., held that the information sought relating to the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges is ‘third party' information and thus the process under Section 11 Right to Information Act, 2005 must be complied with. The Court also held that the information with respect to the judges of the Supreme Court who have declared their assets does not constitute the ‘personal information' of the judges and thus, does not engage the right to privacy. Read More..
[Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, (2020) 5 SCC 481]
NGO/ Society/ Institution neither owned or controlled by Government nor created by an Act or notification is public authority if financed directly or indirectly by Government
In an appeal filed by the appellant i.e. associations running the colleges and/or schools seeking clarification on whether nongovernmental organisations substantially financed by the appropriate government fall within the ambit of ‘public authority' under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, a division bench of Deepak Gupta* and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., held that appellant 1 is the Society which runs various colleges/schools but each has an identity of its own and is a public authority within the meaning of the Act. Read More..
[DAV College Trust and Managing Society v Director of Public Instructions, (2019) 9 SCC 185]
[Rafale Deal] Exemption under S. 8 RTI can be waived when public interest outweighs the harm to protected interest; Supreme Court allowed admissibility of leaked documents
In a PIL filed seeking cancellation of the Rafale arms deal: a 7.8 billion euro weapons deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter planes from France raising an objection by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to review the arms deal on the grounds that the documents published by ‘The Hindu' newspaper which formed the basis of the investigation were stolen and thus could not be used in a Court of Law, a full bench held that leaked documents relating to the Rafale arms deal were admissible for consideration by the Court. Read More..
[Yashwant Sinha v. CBI, (2019) 6 SCC 1]
Delhi High Court | Disclosure of reports and dossiers relating to terrorists act under investigation is barred by RTI Act
In a petition filed by the Petitioner, Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique, a convict in the 11-07-2006 Mumbai Train blast case seeking quashing of the impugned order dated 31-07-2019 passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) wherein the prayer to provide him a true copy of the report/ dossier etc., submitted by Maharashtra Government regarding the investigation of 7/ 11 bomb blast case in the year 2006 and by the Andhra Pradesh Government in the year 2009 has been rejected, Prathiba M Singh, J upheld the rejection order and held that the reports and dossiers by intelligence authorities relating to terrorist activities, which are the subject matter of investigation are barred and thus, cannot be disclosed under RTI especially, if they compromise the sovereignty and integrity of the country. Read More..
[Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui v CPIO, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 641]
Delhi High Court | CPIO, PIO, CIC cannot assess the impact of disclosure of confidential information in anti-dumping proceedings; No inconsistency between RTI Act and Anti-Dumping Rules
In a petition filed by Union of India (petitioner) challenging the order passed by the Central Information Commission directing the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties to provide the information sought by the Right to Information (RTI) applicant Mr. Arvind M. Kapoor (respondent), Prathiba M Singh, J., set aside the impugned order and held that the authorities under the RTI Act, the CPIO, PIO, First Appellate Authority and the CIC would not have the requisite expertise or wherewithal to comment upon or assess the impact of disclosure of confidential information submitted or obtained in anti-dumping proceedings. Read More..
[Union of India v. Arvind M Kapoor, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 1803]
Delhi High Court | Disclosure of information regarding issuance of notification under S 45 UAPA can be rightfully exempted under RTI Act
In a petition filed by Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui (‘petitioner'), who is a death row convict in 7/11 Mumbai train serial bomb blasts in Mumbai challenging an order passed by Central Information Commission upholding that information sought regarding disclosure of the proposal and all documents in the Department's file relating to the issuance of the notification under Section 45(1) of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) Yashwant Varma, J. held that Central Public Commission upholding that information sought regarding disclosure of the proposal and all documents in the Department's file relating to issuance of the notification under Section 45(1) of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) Yashwant Varma, J. held that Central Public Information Commission (CPIO), respondents rightly invoked Section 8(1)(a) of Right to Information Act, 2005 rejecting the disclosures sought and prayed for in the application. Read More..
[Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique v. CPIO, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2927]]
‘A' diary of civil & criminal proceedings cannot be obtained by filing RTI; Kerala HC upholds constitutional validity of Rule 12 of RTI (Subordinate Courts and Tribunals) Rules, 2006
In a case challenging the validity of Rule 12 of the Right to Information (Subordinate Courts and Tribunals) Rules, 2006, Murali Purushothaman, J., held that Rule 12 is not inconsistent with Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (‘RTI Act’). Read More..
[M.P. Chothy v. Registrar General, High Court of Kerala, WP(C) No. 23224 of 2022]
Q. What is the latest Supreme Court Judgement on Section 8 of RTI Act?
A. In the case, Central Public Information Officer v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1459, the 5-judge constitution Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ., and NV Ramana, Dr. DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information. In the 250-page long judgment, Justice Sanjiv Khanna wrote the majority opinion for the Bench and Justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud gave separate but concurring opinions. Read More..
Q. What is the latest Act on the Right to Information in India?
A. The Right to Information Act, 2005 is the latest and current act of right to information in India. It was enacted by the Parliament of India on 15 June 2005 and came into effect on 12 October 2005. The Act replaced the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002, and aims to provide a framework for citizens to secure access to information held by public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in governance.
Q. Does Supreme Court come under the Right to Information Act?
A. Yes, the Supreme Court of India is covered under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Act defines “public authority” to include any authority or body established or constituted by or under the Constitution of India, any law made by the Parliament or the state legislature, or any notification issued by the government. As the Supreme Court is a constitutional body established under the Constitution of India, it falls under the definition of “public authority” and is therefore subject to the provisions of the RTI Act. However, there are certain exemptions provided under the Act, which may restrict the scope of information that can be obtained from the Supreme Court or any other public authority.
Q. In which case did the Supreme Court declare the right to information as a fundamental right? 6
A. The Supreme Court of India has not declared the Right to Information (RTI) as a fundamental right. However, in the case of State of U.P. v. Raj Narain (1975), the court recognized the right to information as an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The court held that citizens have a right to know about the activities of the government, which is necessary for a functioning democracy.
It was only after several years that the RTI Act, 2005 was enacted by the Parliament of India, which provides a legal framework for citizens to access information held by public authorities.