Posted by shailesh gandhi on Thursday, July 10, 2008
When using the Right to Information, it is necessary to understand
what is 'information'. We will look at the definition given in the Act
and then attempt to understand what it means.
The Act defines 'information' in Section 2 (f):
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;
Comments: In simple terms it means that information is anything, which
exists in any form with a public authority. The specific instances
–records, documents, memos, emails, opinions,
advices,...,reports,..... samples,models,.. are merely meant to
illustrate the broad scope. Clearly file notings are opinions, legal
or other opinions obtained by Public authorities, or various reports
received by them are all covered. This also lays down a very important
principle. Information relating to any private body, which may not be
covered by the definition of 'Public Authority' (given in Section 2
h), can be obtained through a public authority if the law allows the
public authority to access it. Thus if any public authority has the
right to ask for any information under the law from a private
organisation-which is not a public authority;- the Citizen can ask for
it from the public authority. A few illustrative examples of how
information may be obtained from institutions which are not Public
a) Information about a private bank can be obtained from the regulator
–Reserve Bank of India,- if the law permits RBI to ask for it. Most
information of any significance can be accessed.
b) Information about a private unaided school--from the education department.
c) Information about a Public Limited Company –from the Registrar of
Companies or SEBI if the law empowers them to ask for it.
d) Information about a Cooperative Society-from the Registrar of
e) Information about Trusts-from the Charities Commissioner.
There is some difference of opinion on whether the term 'accessed'
means any information which the authority can ask for under various
provisos or the information which the authority is usually supposed to
get under the law.
As an example: The Labour office requires certain information to be
submitted at certain intervals- this certainly can be accessed under
Right to Information, since all information with the State is held on
behalf of the Citizen. However, the labour office during an
investigation, can access virtually all the records of an organisation
which normally would not be done. Some RTI users argue that this
proviso can therefore be used to mean any information of a private
organisation can be obtained through any Public authority by invoking
the special investigative powers of the Public authority.
Such a wide interpretation would actually mean that all private
organisations could be forced to disclose all the information with
them. Most Commissions do not agree with this view, and I am inclined
to agree with their view. Only the information normally accessed by
the Public authorities come under the ambit of RTI. On the other hand
all information with the Public authority, is certainly information
covered by the Right to Information Act. The Public authority holds
the information on behalf of Citizens-the owners and masters of the
Government,-on their behalf. Shri Laxmi Chauhan had asked for certain
information from the PIO of the Ministry of Mines about BALCO. This
was refused by the PIO. The CIC in its decision in this case in
No.CIC/AT/A/2007/00389 has categorically stated, "The information must
be available in the annual report of the company, which under law is
to be submitted to shareholders. Being a shareholder of the company,
with representation on its Board of management, the information sought
must be available with the Ministry of Mines, and what is available
with the Ministry cannot be denied to an applicant under the Right to
Thus, once any information is with a Public authority, it is
information available to any Citizen under the Right to Information
Act, subject to the provisions of the Act. Repeatedly, the Act
recognises that what is with the Government is on behalf of the
Citizen, who is the rightful master.
by shailesh gandhi
The above article is posted by sri sailesh gandhi in his blog post here.