Right to Information and Right to Privacy: A Critical Analysis of the Act

The right to know and the right to privacy are two of the most ambiguous legal arena today facing government the court, the public and individuals. The welfare of the society is the primary duty of every civilised state. Right to privacy is not explicitly enumerated as a fundamental right under Part III of the Constitution. But, the Honorable Supreme Court has developed the law as to privacy by spelling it out from ‘Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression’ in article 19(1) (a) and within the ambit of ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said, “Privacy is the State of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life of affairs”.[1] In Mr. X v. Hospital Z the supreme court held that it was open to hospital authorities or the doctor concerned to reveal such information to the person related to the girl whom he intended to marry and she had right to know about the HIV status of the appellant. A three-judge bench of the supreme court held the disclosure of HIV-positive status justified as a girl has right to know, there was no need to for this court to go further and declare in general as to what right and obligation arise in such context as to right to privacy.[2]

An encroachment upon one’s privacy is only shielded if the offender is the state and not a private entity. In R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu[3] the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy is a right to be let alone. No one can publish anything concerning the above matters without the consent of the parties, whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages.

The right to privacy is not, however, absolute; reasonable restriction can be placed thereon in public interest under article 19(5).

The Right to Information Act is a strong weapon in the hands of the media and the press. The restrictions imposed on such right under the Constitution, the Act itself, any other law and by judicial interpretation seem to be reasonable and strike a good balance between people’s right to know and secrecy maintained by the State.[4]

But the question arises regarding how far the Right to Information Act has succeeded in achieving its above-mentioned objective. A review of the practical application of the Right to Information Act makes a revelation of the following tangent to the situation.[5]

Efforts made to generate mass awareness of the RTI Act are lacking.[6]

Misuse of the Act: – The experience of the past years has shown that there are cases wherein frivolous applications are being filed in the name of transparency. The principal objectives for which the RTI Act is being misused are:-

  1. To know the secrets of competitors (third party).
  2. To harass the Public authority or bring disrepute to a public servant with the intention of settling a score.
  3. For promotion of self-interest like a survey or research; tender or other business interest; blackmailing; derailing investigating; service matter- appointment , transfer, promotion, vigilance enquiry, etc.;
  4. It has the potential for being misused for spying activities.[7]
  5. The Act does not have strict penal provisions. The fee charged for information and the manner of payment is not uniform, there is also confusion about the head of accounts to which the application and other fees are to be credited.[8]

More than 75 percent of the citizens are dissatisfied with the quality of information being provided.[9]It is found that the Nodal Departments have not yet published user guides in most of the states.[10]

RTI is indeed a noble idea, yet the context has somehow assumed a new dimension and requires attention so as to fulfill our goals of good governance.

[1]    Krishna Pal Malik, Right to Information (Faridabad: Allahabad Law Agency, 2013)161.

[2]    Nidhi Saini and Shashi Bhushan. “Right to Information Constitutional Aspect”, Nyaya Deep, Vol. X,

(3), (2009).

[3]    AIR (1994) 6 SC632

[4]    Priyanka Jana, “Limitation of the Right to Information Act, 2005”, Global Media Journal, Dec 2010

[5]    Dr. Rajinder Kumar Marwah, “Critical Appraisal of The Right to Information Act, 2005”, Law 

       Journal, Guru Nanak Dev University, Vol. XVII, 2009

[6]    Anshu Jain, A Treatise of The Right to Information Act ( New Delhi: Universal Law Publication, 2014)

177

 [7]   Dr. R.K. Verma, PIO’s Guide To RTI, (New Delhi: Taxman Publication (p) Ltd., 2011) Page no. 549

[8]    Anshu Jain, A Treatise of The Right to Information Act ( New Delhi: Universal Law Publication, 2014)

179.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]   Right to Information Act, retrieved from http://www.ssrn.com visited on 5-09-2016 at 2.45 pm

 

AUTHOR

Rashmi Pandey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s