Section 6(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for brevity, „the Act‟), it is urged that the illiterate persons and the visually impaired persons or persons afflicted by other kinds of disabilities are not in a position to get the information.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 137 OF 2018
Aseer Jamal … Petitioner
Versus
Union of India & Ors. … Respondents
J U D G M E N T
Dipak Misra, CJI
Almost a century back, Nobel Laureate T.S. Eliot had
disenchantingly written, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in
knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in
information?” Though the content of the statement cannot be
said to have lost its fragrance or flavour, yet today,
information has become a strong sense of power. Right to
information has been treated as a right to freedom of speech
and expression as contained in Article 19(1)(a) of the
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Constitution of India. The right to acquire and to disseminate
information has been regarded as an intrinsic component of
freedom of speech and expression, as stated in Secretary,
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of
India and others v. Cricket Association of Bengal and
others.1 and People’s Union for Civil Liberties and another
v. Union of India and others.2
2. Having stated about the right to information, we would
advert to the assertions made in the writ petition. It is set
forth in the writ petition that India, which is a vast country
having large population, has few millions of illiterate adults
and certain States, as per the 2011 Census, have more
illiterates.
3. Referring to Section 6(1) of the Right to Information Act,
2005 (for brevity, „the Act‟), it is urged that the illiterate
persons and the visually impaired persons or persons afflicted
by other kinds of disabilities are not in a position to get the
information. It is contended that the provision contained in

1
(1995) 2 SCC 161
2
(2004) 2 SCC 476
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Section 6 suffers from unreasonable classification between
visually impaired and visually abled persons and thereby
invites the frown of Article 14 of the Constitution. It is further
contended that certain provisions of the Act are not accessible
to orthopaedically impaired persons, persons below the
poverty line and persons who do not have any access to the
internet. Though in the petition, it has been asseverated as
regards the violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, yet the
prayer is couched in a different manner and we are obliged to
say so because we feel that there is no need or necessity to
deal with the constitutional validity of Section 6 of the Act. In
fact, it is further necessary to mention that in the course of
hearing, the prayer was centered on getting the reliefs,
namely, to direct the Union of India, the States and the Union
Territories to provide an effective machinery for the
enforcement of the fundamental right to have access to
information of illiterate citizens and to provide effective
machinery to visually impaired persons and such impaired
persons who are unable to have access to the internet. That
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being the fact situation, we sought the assistance of Mr. K.K.
Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India in the matter.
4. We have heard Mr. Aseer Jamal, the petitioner, who has
appeared in-person and Mr. K.K. Venugopal, learned Attorney
General for India. Though the chart prepared by
Mr. Venugopal indicates the objections and the response, yet
we intend to deal with it in a holistic manner.
5. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act reads
as follows:-
“An Act to provide for setting out the practical
regime of right to information for citizens to
secure access to information under the
control of public authorities, in order to
promote transparency and accountability in
the working of every public authority, the
constitution of a Central Information
Commission and State Information
Commissions and for matters connected
therewith or incidental thereto.
WHEREAS the Constitution of India has
established democratic Republic;
AND WHEREAS democracy requires an
informed citizenry and transparency of
information which are vital to its functioning
and also to contain corruption and to hold
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Governments and their instrumentalities
accountable to the governed;
AND WHEREAS revelation of
information in actual practice is likely to
conflict with other public interests including
efficient operations of the Governments,
optimum use of limited fiscal resources and
the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information;
AND WHEREAS it is necessary to
harmonise these conflicting interests while
preserving the paramountcy of the
democratic ideal;
Now THEREFORE, it is expedient to
provide for furnishing certain information to
citizens who desire to have it.”
6. Section 2(j) of the Act deals with “right to information”,
which reads thus:-
“(j) “right to information” means the right to
information accessible under this Act which is held
by or under the control of any public authority and
includes the right to-
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies
of documents or records;
(iii) taking certified samples of material;
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(iv) obtaining information in the form of
diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or
in any other electronic mode or through
printouts where such information is stored
in a computer or in any other device”
7. Section 6 of the Act that deals with „request for obtaining
information‟ stipulates as under :-
“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.
(2) An applicant making request for information
shall not be required to give any reason for
requesting the information or any other personal
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details except those that may be necessary for
contacting him.
(3) Where an application is made to a public
authority requesting for an information,—
(i) which is held by another public authority;
or
(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely
connected with the functions of another
public authority,
the public authority, to which such application is
made. shall transfer the application or such part of
it as may be appropriate to that other public
authority and inform the applicant immediately
about such transfer:
Provided that the tiansfer of an application
pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as
soon as practicable but in no case later than five
days from the date of receipt of the application.”
8. Mr. Venugopal, learned Attorney General, has
emphasized the proviso to Section 6(1) to highlight that it is
obligatory on the part of the Central Public Information Officer
or State Public Information Officer to render all reasonable
assistance to the persons making the request orally to reduce
the same in writing. As we understand from the said proviso,
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it will be the duty of the officer to listen to the persons and to
reduce it in writing and process the same.
9. Section 6(3) of the Act takes care of the apprehension of
the persons for whose cause the petitioner espouses, by
making the provision pertaining to appropriate competent
public authority. On a careful reading of the same, we do not
find that there can be any difficulty for any person to find out
the public authority as there is a provision for transfer.
10. As far as the grievance relating to visually impaired
persons is concerned, as stated earlier, assistance has to be
rendered under Section 6(1) of the Act to the persons who are
unable to write or have difficulty in writing. Mr. K.K.
Venugopal has brought to our notice that several States
provide information in Braille since the year 2012. Every time
the authority receives an RTI application seeking information
in Braille, it prepares a reply in the printed format and
forwards it to the National Institute for the Visually
Handicapped where it is converted to Braille. The visually
impaired citizens of Bihar were the first in the country to get
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copies under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the Rules
made by the State Government for its implementation in
Braille script. Audio files are also being prepared.
11. From the chart filed by Mr. Venugopal, it is vivid that
several hotline numbers providing toll free access to
information are available on the RTI website. Furthermore, a
help desk is also available for any query or feedback related to
the portal. The contact number is 011-24622461.
12. The next thing that requires to be emphasized upon is
the plight of the people who are below the poverty line. It is
useful to mention that in exercise of the powers conferred by
Section 27 of the Act, the Central Government has framed a
set of rules, namely, the Right to Information Rules, 2012.
Rules 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the said Rules read as follows:-
“3. Application Fee.—An application under subsection
(1) of Section 6 of the Act shall be
accompanied by a fee of rupees ten and shall
ordinarily not contain more than five hundred
words, excluding annexures, containing address of
the Central Public Information Officer and that of
the applicant:
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Provided that no application shall be
rejected only on the ground that it contains more
than five hundred words.
4. Fees for providing information.— Fee for
providing information under sub-section (4) of
Section 4 and sub-sections (I) and (5) of Section 7
of the Act shall be charged at the following rates,
namely :—
(a) rupees two for each page in A-3 or smaller
size paper;
(b) actual cost or price of a photocopy in large
size paper;
(c) actual cost or price for samples or models;
(d) rupees fifty per diskette or floppy;
(e) price fixed for a publication or rupees two
per page of photocopy for extracts from the
publication;
(f) no fee for inspection of records for the
first hour of inspection and a fee of rupees 5
for each subsequent hour or fraction thereof;
and
(g) so much of postal charge involved in
supply of information that exceeds fifty
rupees.
5. Exemption from Payment of Fee.— No fee
under rule 3 and rule 4 shall be charged from any
person who, is below poverty line provided a copy
of the certificate issued by the appropriate
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Government in this regard is submitted alongwith
the application.
6. Mode of Payment of fee.— Fees under these
rules may be paid in any of the following manner,
namely:—
(a) in cash, to the public authority or to the
Central Assistant Public Information Officer
of the public authority, as the case may be,
against a proper receipt; or
(b) by demand draft or bankers cheque or
Indian Postal Order payable to the Accounts
Officer of the public authority; or
(c) by electronic means to the Accounts
Officer of the public authority, if facility for
receiving fees through electronic means is
available with the public authority.”
13. Rule 5 takes care of the situation that has been
highlighted by the petitioner. If an applicant belongs to below
poverty line (BPL) category, he/she has to submit a proof in
support of his/her claim that he/she belongs to the said
category and as far as the mode of payment is concerned,
various modes are provided and the criticism that it is
restricted is unacceptable.
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14. In view of the obtaining situation, as has been brought
out by the learned Attorney General for India, as presently
advised, we are disposed to think that no further direction
needs to be issued except granting liberty to the petitioner to
submit a representation to the competent authority pointing
out any other mode(s) available for getting information under
the Act. If such a representation is submitted, the same shall
be dealt not only with sympathy but also with concern and
empathy. We say so as differently abled persons, which
include visually impaired persons, should have the functional
facility to receive such information as permissible under the
Act. They should not be deprived of the benefit of such a
utility. As indicated in the beginning, the information makes
one empowered. Additionally, we think it appropriate to ask
the authorities to explore any kind of advanced technology
that has developed in the meantime so that other methods can
be introduced. We are absolutely sure that if the petitioner
would point out, the cognizance of the same shall be taken.
We are also certain that the authority shall, with all sincerity
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and concern, explore further possibilities with the available
on-line application/mechanism.
15. The writ petition is, accordingly, disposed of. There shall
be no order as to costs.
.………………………….CJI.
(Dipak Misra)
.…………………………….J.
(A.M. Khanwilkar)
…………………….………..J.
(Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud)
New Delhi;
September 27, 2018