|The Freedom of Information Act, 2000
Revised by Lok Satta on March 1st 2000
To provide for freedom to every citizen to secure access to information under the
control of public authorities, consistent with public interest in order to promote
openness, transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to
matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Fiftieth Year of the Republic of India as follows:
- Short title, extent and commencement
- This Act may be called the Freedom of Information Act, 2000
- It extends to the whole of India
- It shall come into force on such date as the Union Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint, which shall not be later than 60 days from the date of enactment / obtaining the assent of the president.
In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
- "appropriate Government" means in relation to a public authority established, constituted, owned, substantially financed by funds provided and controlled-
- by the Union Government , the Union Government;
- by the State Government, the State Government;
- by the local governments, the Panchayats or Municipalities as the case may be
- "competent authority" means -
- the Speaker in the case of the House of the people or the Legislative Assembly and the Chairman in the case of the Council of States or the Legislative Council;
- the Chief Justice of India in the case of the Supreme Court;
- the Chief Justice of the High Court in the case of a High Court
- the President or the Governor as the case may be in case of other authorities created by or under the Constitution
- the Chairpersons of a panchayat, or a municipality as the case may be in a case of local governments
- Election commission of India or its sub-ordinate agencies in respect of recognized political parties
- "freedom of information" means the right to obtain information from any public authority by means of-
- inspection, taking of extracts and notes;
- obtaining certified copies of any records of such public authority;
- diskettes, floppies, photocopies or in any other electronic mode or through print-outs where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.
- "Information" means any material or information relating to the affairs, administration, decisions or conduct of public authority and includes any document or record relating to the affairs of the public authority.
- "prescribed" means prescribed by rules under this Act by the appropriate Government
- "Project" means any Public work or scheme or programme launched by the
appropriate government or public authority.
- "public authority" means any authority or body established or constituted:-
- by or under the constitution
- by any law made by the appropriate legislature
- "Public Information Officer" means the Public Information Officer appointed under sub-section (1) of section 5;
- "Record" includes-
- any document, manuscript and file
- any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document
- any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not) and
- any other material produced by a computer or by any other device;
- "Third Party" means a person other than the person making a request for information and includes a public authority.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND OBLIGATIONS OF PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
- Freedom of Information
Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have freedom of
information and right to information from a public authority
- Obligations on public authorities
- Every public authority as may be prescribed by the appropriate government or competent authority, shall publish periodically, and in any case at least once in a calender year, maintain and keep updated information indicating.
- particulars of its organization, functions and responsibilities;
- description of its decision making process in terms of procedures; and powers and responsibilities of its officers and employees;
- norms for performance of activities such as prescribed periods for their processing and completion of physical and financial targets etc., and the actual achievements with reference to such norms
- classes of records under its control including the rules, regulations, instructions and list of manuals etc. used by its employees for carrying out activities;
- the facilities provided for access to information
- the name, designation and other relevant particulars of the Public Information Officer, to whom requests for information may be addressed
- It shall be the duty of any public authority, before initiating any project to
publish or communicate to the public generally and to the persons affected or likely to be affected by the project in particular, the facts available to it or to which it has reasonable access which by reasonable standards should be known to them in the best interests of maintenance of democratic principles.
- It shall be mandatory for a public authority to display in a tamper-proof
notice board all its decisions which have a bearing on public interest; and such decisions shall be displayed immediately; and in any case not later than 2 working days.
- It shall also be the duty of the concerned officer of a public authority to give reasons for decisions - whether administrative or adjudicative - to those affected and to disclose the relevant facts and analysis when major policies or decisions are announced.
- It shall be mandatory for each custodial establishment such as a police
lock-up, jail, mental asylum, remand house, women's homes, beggars home etc to appoint a visitors committee comprising independent citizens which shall have full access to them at all hours of the day and night to their records and inmates
- On or before March 31st of each calendar year, the public authority shall submit a report to the competent authority. The report shall include
- the number of determinations made by the public authority not to
comply with requests for record made to such public authority under section 6 and the reasons for each such determination
- the number of appeals made by persons under section 13, the result of such appeals, and the reason for the action upon each appeal that results in a denial of information;
- the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for
the denial of records requested under section 6, and the number of instances of participation for each;
- the results of each proceeding conducted pursuant to section 14, including a report of the disciplinary action taken against the officer or employee who was primarily responsible for improperly withholding records or an explanation of why disciplinary action was not taken;
- a copy of every rule, regulation or guideline issued by such public authority regarding section 6
- a copy of the fee schedule and the total amount of fees collected by the public authority for making records available under section 6; and
- such other information as indicates efforts to administer fully section 6.
- Designation of Public Information Officers
- Every public authority shall for the purposes of this Act, designate one or more officers as Public Information Officers.
- Every Public Information Officer shall deal with requests for information and shall render reasonable assistance to any person seeking such information
- Any officer whose assistance has been sought by the Public Information
officer, shall render all such assistance
- Procedure for supply of information
- A person desiring information from a public authority under this act shall make an application in writing, orally or through electronic means, to the person who shall be designated by the public authority for the purpose. For the said purpose the applicant may be allowed to inspect the concerned document(s).
Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Public Information Officer shall, render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request to reduce it in writing.
- The information asked for under sub-section (a) shall be supplied in writing,
either in English or Hindi or in the language of the state in which the public
authority is located.
- Every public authority shall have a right to charge a reasonable fee for the
supply of any document subject to the condition that such fee shall not exceed the cost of making and supplying the document.
- The information asked for under sub-section (a) shall be furnished to the applicant by the public authority
- where such information relates to the life or liberty of any individual, the information shall be supplied within forty-eight hours of the making of the application
- within seven days if the information is readily available and is of routine nature
- for all other categories of information, as expeditiously as possible, and in no case not later than thirty days
- Processing of requests for information
- Before taking any decision under section 6(a), the Public Information Officer shall take into consideration the representation made by a third party under section 11.
- Where a request is rejected under subsection (a), such a rejection shall be with the prior approval of the higher officer to be designated by the respective public authority. In such a case, the Public Information Officer shall communicate to the person making the request as expeditiously as possible and not later than 7 days, -
- the reasons for such rejection;
- the period within which the appeal against such rejection may be preferred;
- the particulars of the appellate authority.
- Information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of a public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.
- In certain special circumstances as specified in this subparagraph, the time limits prescribed by this Act may be extended by written notice to the person making such request, setting forth the reasons for such extension and the date on which the information sought is expected to be dispatched. No such notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension of more than ten working days. Explanation "certain special circumstances'' means, only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:
- the need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;
- the need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or
- the need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another Public Authority having a substantial interest in the matter of the or among two or more components of the public authority having substantial subject-matter interest therein.
- Exemption from disclosure of information
Notwithstanding anything here in before but subject to the provisions of section 9 the following information shall be exempted from disclosure, namely :-
- Information, the disclosure of contents of which would prejudicially affect
the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, strategic scientific or economic interest of India or conduct of international relations.
- Information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect public safety and order, detection and investigation of an offence or which may lead to an incitement to commit an offence.
- Record of deliberations of the Council of Ministers for a specified period; but does not include the documents relied upon by the Council of Ministers or its decisions except in respect of matters covered by items (a) and (b)
- Minutes or records of advice, opinions or recommendations made by an officer of a public authority during the decision making process prior to the executive decision or policy formulation , for a specified period
- Trade and commercial secrets protected by law or information, the
disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the legitimate economic and commercial interests or the competitive position of a public authority; or would cause unfair gain or loss to any person or institution, provided that an appeal against the refusal of the information shall be disposed of within a period of 30 days from receipt thereof
- information relating to personal or other information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or in which the public has no interest and would constitute a clear and unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
- informating relating to the ongoing research work in scientific establishments of government during the course of such research, until the results are published in a scientific journal or made public in an appropriate forum.
provided that information which cannot be denied to the parliament or
state legislature or to a local government shall not be denied to any citizen
provided that all declassified information shall be made available to the
public on request
provided that norms for declassification shall be reviewed periodically as
determined by the appropriate public authority and in any case not later than 10 years.
- Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall preclude the right of any person to obtain such information as would affect life or liberty of any person in whom they are interested
- Grounds for refusal of access in certain cases
Without prejudice to the provisions of section 8, a Public Information Officer may reject a request for information also where such request-
- is too general in nature or is of such a nature that, having regard to the volume of information required to be retrieved or processed would involve disproportionate diversion of the resources of a pubic authority or would adversely interfere with the functioning of such authority;
- Provided that where such request is rejected on the ground that the request is too general, it would be the duty of the Public Information officer to render help as far as possible to the person making request to reframe his request in such a manner as may facilitate compliance with it;
If a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempted from disclosure, then notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, access may be given to that part of the record which does not contain any information that is exempted from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempted information.
- Third party information
- Where a public authority intends to disclose information on a request made by a party which relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Public Information Officer shall by notice to such third party invite representation against the proposed disclosure if any within fifteen days from the date of receipt of such notice:
- Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure shall be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interest of such third party.
- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the provisions of this Act
will apply to all recognized political parties in respect of sources, utilization and accounting of all funds
- Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Public Information Officer may, within thirty days of receipt of such decision, can prefer an appeal to such authority as may be prescribed by the agency in compliance with this act and such appeal shall be disposed of as expeditiously as possible and in no case not later than thirty days.
Provided that such authority may entertain the appeal after the expiry of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.
- On rejection of a first appeal for access to information under the provisions of this act, the applicant shall have the right for a second appeal to an independent statutory body, which shall be identified by the respective authority well in advance in compliance with the provisions of this act and such appeal shall be disposed of within thirty days from the date of receipt of such appeal. For the purpose of implementing this Act, Independent Statutory bodies are defined as under:
- The central vigilance commission at the union level
- Either Lokayukta or Lokpal where they exist and in their absence the state vigilance commission at the state and union territory level
- A statutory authority specially appointed by the state government in respect of the local governments
- The Election commission and its subordinate agencies in case of recognised political parties
- If the decision of the Public Information Officer against which the appeal is preferred under sub-section (a) also relates to information of third party, the appellate authority shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.
- Any individual responsible for providing any information under this act shall be personally liable for failure to furnish the information within the period specified therein.
- Where the information asked for under this act is not furnished within the time specified, the person responsible for supplying the information shall be punishable with a fine of Rs.50 per every day of delay beyond the day by which the information was supposed to be supplied in compliance with the provisions of this act.
- In case of willful concealment of information or deliberate furnishing of false information, the person/persons responsible shall be punished by a fine and imprisonment for 6 months in addition to facing mandatory disciplinary action by the respective public authority.
- And to remove all doubts, such offence as outlined in clause (iii) of section 13 will entail punishment of reduction of rank or removal and dismissal from service , if found guilty after disciplinary proceedings by the respective public authority's administrative mechanism.
- Not withstanding anything contained in the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, every offence under this act shall be cognizable.
- Protection of Action taken in good faith
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or any rule made thereunder.
- Protection for Public - Interest disclosures
public servant who is in possession of information on serious wrong doing by any individual or agency in government which might pose a serious and imminent threat to the safety or health of an individual or the public, or severely compromise public interest or cause serious loss to the public exchequer, shall not be penalized in any way for disclosing to the public such information backed by reasonable evidence. Provided that this section will not apply to organizations listed in section 18.
- Act to have an overriding effect
The Official Secrets Act, 1923 and every other Act in force shall cease to be operative to the extent to which they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act.
- Act not to apply to certain organisations
Nothing contained in this Act, shall apply to the central Intelligence Bureau; to the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat; to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence; to the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau; to the Directorate of Enforcement; to the Narcotics Central Bureau; or to the state intelligence bureau by whatever name it may be called; or to any information furnished by such organizations to the respective Governments.
- Power to make rules by Appropriate Government and Public Authorities
- The Union/State Governments shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, and various public authorities which are covered under the provisions of this act shall make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act, within sixty days from the date of enactment of this act
- In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely,:-
- intervals at which the matters referred to in the sub-clauses (i) to (vi) of clause (a) of section 4 shall be published;
- the fee payable under section 6;
- the other authority before whom an appeal may be preferred under sub-section (a) of section 13;
- any other matter which is required to be, or maybe prescribed.
- Laying of rules
Every rule made under this Act by an appropriate Government shall be laid, as soon as maybe after it is notified, before the respective Legislatures, or incase of local bodies the appropriate monitoring body to which the public authority is accountable within 30 days of such rule being framed.
- Power to remove difficulties
- If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Union Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act as appears to it to be necessary or expedient for removal of the difficulty, provided no such order shall be made after 2 years after commencement of the Act.
- Every order made under this section shall, as soon as maybe after it is made, be laid before the Houses of the Parliament.