12th October, 2005, brought a brand new dimension to the Indian Democracy, as the day brought into effect the Right to Information Act, 2005.
RTI Act is intended to provide the citizen of India, the right to ask for information from “public authorities”. Although such rights have existed before the act of 2005 came into being, through various state legislations, but they suffered from severe inconsistencies.
Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, gives the right to seek information, to all the citizens (excluding those of Jammu & Kashmir of India1), from their government. An individual under this act can request any information, can ask for reports and records, can take certified samples of materials of public work, obtain information forms of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes ‘or in any other electronic mode’ or through printouts.
However, a citizen may be denied information on various grounds as given under Section 8 of the RTI Act, such as the disclosure or publication of which affects the sovereignty of India; is expressly forbidden by a court of law (or tribunal), or will lead to contempt of court; will lead to violation and breakdown of privilege of parliament or state legislature; includes trade secrets, commercial confidence and intellectual property; includes information received in confidence from a foreign government; contains personal information that has no relation to public matters, etc.
But none of these should worry you, if you decide to file an RTI in order to get some information, because seldom would your requests fall under the gambit of these exceptions.
PIO (Public Information Officer) is the officer in public authority that provides the information. In normal cases the information shall be provided within 30 days, and 48 hours in the matters of life and death. In case, the information is not provided or denied, you can appeal to an appellate authority (within 30 days of the expiration of 30 days/ 48 hours, as the case may be). Even if your first appeal is also not replied to, you can appeal further to the respective Information Commissions2 within 90 days.
If you are seeking any information from central government you just need to visit this website https://rtionline.gov.in. You can pay the fee online, which by the way is just Rs 10#. However, if you are seeking any information from other public authorities, it is a comparatively a little complicated to file an RTI, but it is all worth it to get information from our government, and to help fight the corruption.
To file an RTI with other governmental authorities, you need to first check with that office, look for the amount of fees to be paid, check if there is a PIO in that office/department, and you should address your application to the PIO.
After that, all you need to do is, take a white paper, write your query on it (make sure you write an explicit query, devoid of vagueness, those babus are always looking for chances to reject your application). You can type or hand-write the letter (but make sure it does not look like this). You are not required to provide the reason for asking the information, and you can request for information on more than one matter in one application, and there is no limit on number of pages either4. Do not forget to write your name, and to put your signature at the end of the application. In general, you can pay the fees in cash, by demand draft, or by Indian Postal Order (recommended), but cannot pay the fees by Cheque.
And remember, if Information is not provided on time, you can appeal to an appellate authority, and the burden of proof for why the application was rejected/ not replied to in time, lies with the PIO and not you, under the act. Plus, there is no fee for filing an appeal. So do not hesitate to file an appeal.
Also, if you have extra money to spend, and are lazy, your work is still easy. There are lots of online portals such as www.vakilsearch.com that charge you a small amount of money, and will file the RTI application for you!
Well, if a nine year old girl can, then why can’t you? Go and file one now!
- Under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, Jammu and Kashmir has an autonomous status, and the legislations passed by the Parliament are not applicable to the state. However, in this case, J&K has its own law, Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009, which is closely based on RTI Act, 2005 of Parliament of India.
- Central Information Commission (CIC) in case the authority, you are seeking information from comes under Central government, otherwise respective State Information Commissions (SICs) of your state if the authority comes under state government.
- The state of Karnataka has amended its rule, and you can ask queries on only one subject matter, with a word limit of 150 words.
#No fee is to be paid for people who are below poverty line (BPL). But I expected no one reading this article would be!
About the Author
Neer Varshney is a first year law student at Symbiosis Law School Noida. He is interested in writing over matters of Politics, Philosophy, Law, Minority Rights, etc. He is currently working as a Content Developer intern with LEAF Society.
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