Many of us think that we can ask everything from government under Right to Information Act, 2005, but that is not correct. RTI Act, 2005 clearly defines “information”, and puts some limitation on the type of information we can ask. Thus, it is important to understand what is RTI Information? What information can be given under RTI?
RTI Information: definition of “Information” and “Right to Information” under RTI Act:
Definition of “Information” under RTI Act: As per 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;
Definition of “Record” under RTI Act: As per Section 2(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;
Definition of “Right to Information” under RTI Act: As per Section 2(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;
Section 3: Right to Information: Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information.
Thus, it is clear from section 3 of the RTI Act that citizen can not get every information but only those information that are in line with the provisions of the RTI Act.
RTI Information: Observation of Supreme Court on definition of “Information” and “Right to Information”:
Honorable Supreme Court took opportunity to interpret what is RTI Information? What information can be given under RTI?
Honorable Supreme Court on Right to Information Act, 2005 in Civil Appeal No.6454 of 2011, arising out of SLP[C] No.7526/2009 in the case of Central Board of Secondary Education & Anr. Vs Ajitya Bandopadhyay & Ors clarified coverage of information with following observation:
“At this juncture, it is necessary to clear some misconceptions about the RTI Act. The RTI Act provides access to all information that is available and existing. This is clear from a combined reading of section 3 and the definitions of `information’ and `right to information’ under clauses (f) and (j) of section 2 of the Act. If a public authority has any information in the form of data or analyzed data, or abstracts, or statistics, an applicant may access such information, subject to the exemptions in section 8 of the Act. But where the information sought is not a part of the record of a public authority, and where such information is not required to be maintained under any law or the rules or regulations of the public authority, the Act does not cast an obligation upon the public authority, to collect or collate such non- available information and then furnish it to an applicant. A public authority is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inferences and/or making of assumptions. It is also not required to provide `advice’ or `opinion’ to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any `opinion’ or `advice’ to an applicant. The reference to `opinion’ or `advice’ in the definition of `information’ in section 2(f) of the Act, only refers to such material available in the records of the public authority. Many public authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to the citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation under the RTI Act.”
Accordingly, you can get all information, except information pertaining to section 8 & 9 of the RTI Act, from government that is available and existing. I will clarify this further with examples:
You can ask government to provide following information:
- What is status of your Passport Application? What action has been taken on your application till date?
- What is the status of your Income Tax Refund?
- Certified copies of your Answer Sheet?
- Expenditures in any government project?
- Status and actions taken on your complaints submitted in government office, etc.
These documents are available with government. Thus, you have right to get these information.
But you can’t ask government to provide information which requires drawing of inferences and/or making of assumptions. For example:
- What will be government actions if some tragedy happens ( if it has been not been documented)?
- What will be government steps for empowering women after 5 years (if it has been not been documented)?
Such information requires making assumptions, and PIO is not bound to provide information that requires making assumptions.
The above mentioned provisions of RTI Act, and observations of Supreme Court clearly outline what is RTI Information? What information can be given under RTI? If you still have doubts whether information required by you can be sought under RTI Act or not, you can ask through comment box.