In a significant move to enhance accessibility to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the Supreme Court of India has directed all State Information Commissions (SICs) to offer the option for litigants to file their complaints and appeals online. This directive comes as part of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking instructions for SICs and the Central Information Commission (CIC) to function in a hybrid mode, allowing for both online and in-person hearings.
The petitioner’s counsel highlighted the challenges faced by citizens in some states who are required to travel long distances to attend court hearings related to their RTI applications. While there is a nominal fee of ₹10 for attending these hearings, the travel expenses often amount to thousands of rupees.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, presiding over the case, stressed the importance of adopting technology to facilitate access to justice. He stated, “Using technology is no longer an option. Technology has the potential to ensure access to justice by eliminating the need for citizens to travel long distances to secure their right to be heard.”
Justice Chandrachud emphasized that access to justice is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, all State Information Commissioners (SICs) must make provisions for hybrid hearings of complaints and appeals. He further called for proactive measures to ensure the effectiveness of online services for RTI cases.
The Supreme Court’s directive includes a mandate for every state to compile the email addresses of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) within a month. The Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) will convene a meeting with all SICs within the same timeframe to establish a comprehensive plan for implementing online filing and hybrid hearing services. The DoPT’s website will be made available to access the facilities provided by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for this purpose.
This landmark decision by the Supreme Court aligns with India’s broader efforts to promote transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the functioning of government bodies. By facilitating online filing and hybrid hearings for RTI cases, the court aims to make the RTI application process more accessible and convenient for citizens across the country.
This move is expected to have a significant impact on reducing the financial and logistical burden on citizens who wish to exercise their right to information. It also underscores the judiciary’s commitment to embracing technology to improve the overall justice delivery system in India.
Sources By Agencies