In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries.
Information is the oxygen of democracy. If people do not know what is happening in their society, if the actions of those who rule them are hidden, then they cannot take a meaningful part in the affairs of that society. But information is not just a necessity for people - it is an essential part of good government. Bad government needs secrecy to survive. It allows inefficiency, wastefulness and corruption to thrive. Information allows people to scrutinise the actions of a government and is the basis for proper, informed debate of those actions. Most governments, however, prefer to conduct their business in secret. In other words, access to information is hidden tool in layman's arm to tackle corruption. The ultimate way to eradicate corruption is to use more and more the right to information.
Just as the right to vote of the 'little' citizen is of profound significance in a democracy, so is the right to information. It is another small but potent key in the hands of India's 'little' people that can 'unlock' and lay bare the internal workings of public authorities whose decisions affect their daily lives in myriad unknown ways.
Right to know is part of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(l)(a) of Constitution of India.
Right to information legislation should be guided by the principle of maximum disclosure. The principle of maximum disclosure establishes a presumption that all information held by public bodies should be subject to disclosure and that this presumption may be overcome only in very limited circumstances.
The preamble to the RTI Act indicates that it is a statute to provide for "setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of Information Commission and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto." The preamble to the RTI Act notes that democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.
The Jammu and Kashmir State was, in fact, a pioneer in enacting RTI Act in the year 2004. Bringing it at par with the Central Act, the Jammu & Kashmir State Right to Information Act 2009 was enforced with effect from 20th March, 2009. By virtue of the powers conferred under sub-section (1) of Section 12 of the said Act, the State Government constituted the Jammu & Kashmir State Information Commis¬sion through a gazette notification under SRO 325 dated 19-10-2009. The Commission comprises of one State Chief Information Commis¬sioner and two State Information Commissioners appointed by the Governor.
This book "A TREATISE ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION" has been released with an understanding that though there is no important case law on the State Act but various cases from Supreme Court, High Courts, Central Information Commission and State Information Commission has been reproduced with their subject. Since the State Act is on the lines of Central Act with minor exceptions, this book is made with understanding that case laws which are prepared on sections of Central Act should be cross referred with sections of State Act though effort has been made thereto.
To err is human. Any feedback regarding improvement in further editions of this book shall be graciously accepted.
M. Iqbal Dar
Advocate J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K State, Central & International Law On RTI