Right to Information (RTI) — a Powerful Tool for Wildlife Conservation

Praveen Bhargav
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The RTI mandates timely response to citizen requests.
RTI has been given the status of a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution.

Important Provisions of The Right to Information Act, 2005

Section 2:

(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;

(i) “record” includes—

(a) any document, manuscript and file;
(b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
(c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
(d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device;

(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to –

(i) inspection of work, documents, records;
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
(iii) taking certified samples of material;
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;

This empowers any person to demand access to all government files and after scrutinizing the file obtain certified copies of the letters, documents, file notings etc.  Another important provision is that any person can demand inspection of works. This would be extremely useful for NGOs to actually carry out an audit (physical/ecological/financial) of various civil works that are presently damaging wildlife habitat. A chartered engineer can be part of the team that checks measurements of civil works to determine if it complies with the tender documents or approved contractor’s bill. Inspection of plantation works can also be carried out.

Thus, these two clauses would be extremely useful for field monitoring campaigns. As per sub clause (c) of clause 2 of Rule 4  fee chargeable for inspection of files would be Rs 20/ half hour after the first hour (which is free). For inspection of works, a reasonable fee would be chargeable.

6. (1) A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to —

(a) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority; (b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:

Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.

(2) An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

No officer can insist on any extraneous details from the applicant including the reason for seeking such information or file or inspection of works.

7. (1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request undersection 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.

(8) Where a request has been rejected under sub-section (1), the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall communicate to the person making the request,

(i) the reasons for such rejection;
(ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
(iii) the particulars of the appellate authority.

The time limit specified for providing information or rejection of the application is 30 days. In case of rejection, the reasons must be provided along with time limit for appeal and the appellate authority details.

8. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
(b) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;

(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

The above clauses specify information that can be withheld. Even ACRs of officials including field note books (FNBs), MB books, Vehicle Log Books, inquiry reports, audit reports with remarks etc can be obtained.

20. (1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees:

The penalty for not furnishing the information would be 250 rupees per day till information is furnished subject to a maximum of 25,000 rupees.

24. (1) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government:

The Ministry of Environment or State Forest Departments or the Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms (DPAR) are not listed in the second schedule and they are bound to disclose all the information held by them.

RTI Rules


(1) Any person desirous of obtaining information under sub-section (1) of section 6 of the Act shall make an application in Form-A or in any other format as far as possible containing the particulars specified under the format to the State Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer as the case may be along with an initial fee of Rs. 10 with his application. Every officer receiving request under the Act shall give an acknowledgement

(2) (a) For providing information under subsection (1) of section 7, the fees for supplying the information shall be charged at Rs.2/- for each page in respect of matters in A4 size paper.

(b) For providing information under subsection (1) of section 7, in the case of Maps, Plans, Reports, a Partial record or any Technical data or Sample or Models, a reasonable fee shall be fixed by the State Public Information Officer in each case depending upon the cost of labour and material required to be employed.

(c) As regards inspection of records and documents, no fee for the first hour. For every subsequent half an hour or fraction thereof, Rs.20/- shall be charged from persons making application with initial payment as prescribed under rule 4(1) above. For inspection of works a reasonable fee shall be fixed by the State Public Information Officer in each case depending upon the cost of labour and material required to be employed apart from initial fees as prescribed under rule 4(1).

(3) For providing information under sub-section (5) of section 7, the fees for supplying information in Diskette or Floppy or C.D. or in any other Electronic mode shall be Rs.50/-

(4) The fee shall be collected in the form of Indian postal order or D.D. or Bankers Cheque or Pay order drawn in favour of the State Public Information Officer or in cash or by remitting it to the Treasury as per Karnataka Financial Code (KFC).

The government of India is very serious about ground level implementation of RTI and has a dedicated website: http://rti.gov.in and http://rti.india.gov.in for detailed information.

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Praveen Bhargav is managing trustee of Wildlife First and was a member of the National Board for Wildlife (2007-10).


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