The Supreme Court on 26 August 2019 issued notice to the Centre and state governments on a petition seeking to establish a Right to Information (RTI) portal to enable people to file online applications for information from any department.
A bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana issued the order while hearing the plea filed by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell through lawyer Jose Abraham.
- The NGO, which seeks to empower migrant people including Non Resident Indians (NRIs) on the legal front, sought a direction to all state governments to provide the online RTI portal facility to obtain information through the electronic mode.
- Describing the RTI Act as a powerful tool, advocate Abraham said the true objective of the legislation can be achieved only by timely response to citizens' request for government information when the process was made online.
- One of the most effective provision in the RTI Act is section 7(1) which states that 'information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request' is not effective under the existing system and it severely affects the life and liberty of citizens, the petition said.
- The petitioner told the court that the Central government established an online RTI portal for any Indian citizen including NRIs to seek information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department. The applicant can also pay the fee online and submit the RTI application.
- The Central government then directed the state governments in December 2013 to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTIs in their respective states.
- The Centre told the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to provide technical support such as software and source code to the state governments which desire to replicate the web portal for online filing of RTI applications. The petitioner said that only Maharashtra and Delhi had set up online portals.
- The lawyer said that a person seeking information now has to make a physical application. Also, the applicant will have to obtain a postal order by visiting the post office and paying the fee for such an application. Then the application is sent to the concerned department.
- It is also difficult for Non-Resident Indians (NRI) desirous of obtaining information from any department of the state governments at present since they have to undergo physical application process, the petitioner said.
- Right to Information (RTI) is act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of the right to information for citizens.
- Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
- The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
- This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005.