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EVM is ‘information’ under Right to Information Act

Topics Covered:

  • Statutory organizations.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

 

EVM is ‘information’ under Right to Information Act

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: About CIC and ICs- appointment, eligibility and other related key facts.
  • For Mains: Issues related to appointment of CIC and issues of transparency in appointment, significance of this ruling.

 

Context: An Electronic Voting Machine is “information” under the Right to Information Act and can be demanded by an applicant from the Election Commission of India on a payment of Rs 10, the Central Information Commission has ruled.

 

The ruling:

  • The machine is covered under the definition of “information” and can be demanded from the ECI.
  • As per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ also includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority.

Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines ‘Information’ as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

 

Implications of this ruling:

This implies the Election Commission has to respond to an RTI application seeking the EVM either by providing it or refusing it under exemption clauses in the Act. But that also can be contested before the CIC, the highest adjudicating authority in RTI matters.

 

Background:

An information can be denied by a public authority if it attracts any exemption clauses listed in the RTI Act which also exempts information pertaining to commercial confidence or intellectual property from disclosure.

One of the clauses Section 8(1)(d) exempts information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

 

Basics about CIC:

What is the eligibility criteria and what is the process of appointment of CIC/IC?

Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows:

  1. The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
  2. The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; and
  3. A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

 

Eligibility:

  • Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
  • Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

 

What is the term of office and other service conditions of CIC?

  1. Section 13 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment.
  2. Section 13(5)(a) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.

 

Sources: the hindu.