The Supreme Court has issued instructions to both the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions to ensure the thorough enforcement of the stipulations laid out in the Right to Information Act of 2005. This includes the active disclosure of information by public authorities.
A panel of three judges, headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, underscored the vital role of public accountability in governing the relationship between those responsible for duties (“duty bearers”) and those holding rights (“right holders”).
Drawing attention to the interconnectedness of authority and responsibility, the Supreme Court observed that while all citizens possess the “right to information” as enshrined in Section 3 of the Act, the corresponding “duty” of public authorities to divulge information is acknowledged in Section 4 of the RTI Act.
The bench, which also included Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, directed both the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions to vigilantly oversee the execution of the mandates outlined in Section 4 of the Act, as well as the guidelines and memos issued by the Department of Personnel and Training over time.
Section 4 of the Right to Information Act outlines the obligations of public authorities. Notably, Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act specifies the information that public authorities should proactively disclose. Sections 4(2) and 4(3) further delineate the methods for disseminating this information.
The Supreme Court’s pronouncement was made in response to a judgment regarding a plea seeking the effective implementation of a provision within the Right to Information Act that necessitates public authorities to voluntarily disclose significant information pertaining to their operations.
The petition was submitted by Kishan Chand Jain, who advocated for the efficacious execution of Section 4 of the RTI Act, which deals with the responsibilities of public authorities.
The plea argued that this provision forms the fundamental essence of the RTI Act, and without its implementation, the legislation remains superficial.
Additionally, the plea referred to reports from the Central Information Commission, which indicated inadequate adherence to the mandates outlined in Section 4.
The plea highlighted that the Department of Personnel and Training had issued an Office Memorandum mandating a third-party audit, but this initiative witnessed limited participation