Is RTI An Absolute Right?
The right to information is not an absolute one. There are certain cases in which the government may not share the information with the citizens. This kind of information is put under the ‘exceptions’ category and all the RTI laws enacted by different countries have this category. For example, the information pertaining to the legitimate security concerns of the state may not be declared to the public. Based on legitimate concerns, the government may not provide information about the following:
- national security, defence and international relations;
- public safety;
- prevention, investigation and prosecution of criminal activities;
- privacy and other legitimate private interests;
- commercial and other economic interests, be they private or public;
- equality of parties concerning court proceedings;
- inspection, control and supervision by public authorities;
- economic, monetary and exchange rate policies of the state;
- confidentiality of deliberations within/between public authorities for an authority’s internal preparation of a matter.
However, it does not necessarily mean that the government can deny access to information to the public by merely referring to any of these areas. That is why there have evolved internationally the principles or best practices pertaining to the issue as to how the information sharing process should be handled. A public body has to put in writing as to why requested information cannot be provided and bear the burden of proof in front of an appellate body to establish facts justifying the denial of access to requested information.