The runtime exception classes (RuntimeException and its subclasses) are exempted from compile-time checking because, in the judgment of the designers of the Java programming language, having to declare such exceptions would not aid significantly in establishing the correctness of programs. Many of the operations and constructs of the Java programming language can result in runtime exceptions. The information available to a compiler, and the level of analysis the compiler performs, are usually not sufficient to establish that such run-time exceptions cannot occur, even though this may be obvious to the programmer. Requiring such exception classes to be declared would simply be an irritation to programmers.
(from the JLS)