40% of RTI rejections did not cite valid reason, says analysis
28th March, 2021 Polity
- According to the Central Information Commission’s annual report, the Centre has only rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate.
- However, almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the RTI Act. This includes 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office.
- Rejection rates have fallen since the 13.9% rate in 2005-06, and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8.4% spike in 2014-15. In 2019-20, they hit their lowest level so far.
- The CIC’s annual report covers more than 2,000 public authorities across the Central government as well as the union territories.
- The Agriculture Ministry’s rejection rate doubled from 2% in 2018-19 to 4% in 2019-20. The Delhi Police and the Army also saw increases in rejection rates.
- In 38.7% of rejections in 2019-20, however, public authorities failed to cite these permissible exemption clauses, and were classified under the ‘Others’ category in the CIC data. This is an increase from the 33% seen the previous year.
- Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens' right to information.
- It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
- Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
- In cases involving a petitioner's life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.
- The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
- The RTI Act allows public authorities to reject RTI requests on a number of grounds, ranging from information which would endanger life and safety to that which involves irrelevant personal information, Cabinet papers, foreign governments, copyrights, or sovereignty, security and intelligence matters. Public authorities are expected to cite the relevant clause of the Act to invoke the exemption.