The Right to Information Act (RTI) is an Indian law that establishes the rules and processes for individuals’ access to information. The Act covers the whole country of India. It includes the administration, legislature, and judiciary, as well as any organisation or entity founded or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. The Right to Information Act’s main goal is to empower individuals, promote openness and accountability in government operations, combat corruption, and make our democracy really function for the people. It goes without saying that a well-informed citizen is better able to maintain a close eye on the tools of governance and hold the government responsible to the people. The Act is an important step in ensuring that citizens are kept informed about government activities. Its main responsibility is to guarantee that public requests for government information are promptly addressed.
Despite the fact that the main idea behind the creating of RTI mechanism was to fight corruption and promote transparency, it remains silent on the issue of use of replies obtained under it as evidence in courts under the Indian Evidence Act. Questions about the admissibility and mode of proving of these replies have arisen in courts throughout the country. Courts, on the other hand, are split on whether or not responses collected under the RTI Act may be used as evidence, as well as how such evidence must be presented if it is found to be acceptable. While some courts have ruled that RTI responses may be read directly in court, others have ruled that they are inadmissible. Uniform norms of admission and evidence are required. Respondents and documents ruled admissible by a trial court shall not be rejected by an appeal court as fundamentally inadmissible or poorly established. This is a critical problem for practitioners since it has the potential to create serious bias to plaintiffs.
ADMISSIBILITY OF REPLIES RECEIVED UNDER RTI AS EVIDENCE
The RTI Act information is supplied in response to the applicant’s request for information. As a result, the response is linked to the inquiry and must be relevant to the information requested. As a consequence, every response or reply must be interpreted in light of the information asked. Furthermore, the information presented may not be full, since it is based only on what is on file and is in response to the question; as a result, it is critical to obtain a copy of the documents on which the information is based.
It is necessary to get a certified copy of the information and responses received under the act in order for them to be acceptable in court. The information may be utilised as essential evidence in court to prove one’s point of view. As a result, it is always desirable to build a pleading on such material and request that the parties engaged in a lawsuit provide the document via discovery as authorised by the Civil Procedure Code. The papers and replies may be considered as verified and genuine after they are put in accordance with the court’s instruction. However, any replies, records or paper put on record via discovery must still be proven or denied in accordance with the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It is necessary to establish and prove the “relevant fact.” Furthermore, the definition of the right to information makes it clear that citizens’ right to seek information includes the provision of certified copies of documents.
An applicant may request certified copies of documents, responses, or records under Section 2 (j) (ii) of the RTI Act. This certified copy of the information document may be used in court as supporting evidence or in specific terms secondary evidence. It’s worth noting that the RTI Act’s right to information includes the ability to view answers, responses, and documents, as well as the ability to get certified copies of papers or records and certified samples of material maintained by a public body. A person has the right to request information from a government agency in any format that is suitable, as long as the information is already stored on a computer or other device that can save it.
In a growing number of instances, courts are now accepting information and responses collected via RTI as evidence. In fact, in a particular 2015 judgement, the Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that certified copies of documents acquired under the Right to Information Act 2005 might be accepted as supplementary evidence in one of the instances. Clause (f) of Section 65 of the Evidence Act makes it abundantly apparent that a certified copy allowed under the Evidence Act or by any other legislation in effect may be accepted as supplementary evidence, according to the court. Similar instances may be found in courts all around the nation.
Due to the country’s growing court backlog of cases, documenting evidence takes a long time. As a result, an effort has been made to avoid formal witness examinations. Given the growing backlog, it is evident that an archaic method must be updated, particularly for ‘formal’ witnesses. Examining PIOs to prove RTI answers and documentation would be a huge waste of time and money. These replies are self-explanatory, indicating their own character and origin. Having witnesses build the groundwork for the same would be a complete failure that would serve no one while harming everyone. In addition, the RTI Act was created to give trustworthy information and improve openness in a democracy. Given that this material is obtained from the state in the formal method prescribed by the state, it is unreasonable that the state then requires a plaintiff to go through a time-consuming and inconvenient procedure to show these papers. Given the many presumptions found throughout the Evidence Act for other documents pertaining to the state, it is unfair that RTI responses intended to promote openness should need such a lengthy process.
Unfortunately, the legislations governing the admission and verification of such materials is still ambiguous. A flurry of High Court decisions has only added to the complication. Intervention by the legislature or the Supreme Court to clarify difficulties that have arisen, particularly prior to the questioning of such witnesses, would be encouraged.
Author(s) Name: Arnav Laroia (National Law University, Jodhpur)
 Narayan Singh v/s Kallaram @ Kalluram Kushwaha & Others, (2015) WP No. 7860/2014