Question: Can a company seek RTI information under the Right to Information Act? Recently, our company had sought some information under RTI from a Government authority, but it was refused on the ground that a company has no right to seek RTI information. What is the correct legal position and how to overcome the restriction?
Answer: Under the Right to Information Act, 2005, Section 3 lays down as under:
“3. Right to information.—Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information.”
Thus, this section provides that all “citizens” have the right to information. A company (or for that matter, a society, trust, association, etc.) is not a citizen, even though a company may be a “legal person” or a separate legal entity having its own independent existence separate from its members or shareholders. Therefore, the right to seek information is not given to a company under Section 3 of the RTI Act, since a company is not a “citizen”.
Having said that, one may notice that under Section 6 of the RTI Act, which lays down as to how a request for obtaining information can be made, the word “citizen” is not used and instead of that the word “person” is used; see sub-section (1) of Section 6 which is reproduced below:
“6. Request for obtaining information.—(1) A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to—
(a) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority;
(b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be,
specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:
Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.”
So, technically, a company being a “person” under Section 6 of RTI Act, it should be in a position to obtain RTI information. However, many Public Information Officers refuse to provide RTI information to companies on the ground that a company is not a “citizen” and therefore, it cannot have a right to obtain information under Section 3 of the Act.
So, what is the way out? The simple way out is that an employee or office-bearer of the company (or society or NGO, etc.) may make the RTI application on behalf of the company indicating his name and mentioning that he or she is a citizen of India, in which case the information may be supplied to him/her. In such cases, even if the information is actually being sought by the company, it is in fact supplied to the employee or office-bearer (who is a citizen) who is filing the RTI application on behalf of the company. It may be noted that once an employee etc. makes an RTI application on behalf of the company and if he is a citizen, the information cannot be refused since it is his right to get information as a citizen.
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