2 Sep 2019, 16:00 — 8 min read
Background: The Right to Information Act 2005 provides citizens the right to access information that is in the control of public authorities, thereby leading to greater transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. In this article, Madhur Vinod Kumar explains RTI and answers some commonly asked questions.
Although India is a free land, often citizens are not able to access information from authorities, due to complex bureaucratic procedures and red tape. Therefore, to set this right, to increase accountability and to check corruption, the Right to Information Act was introduced.
RTI stands for Right to Information. Right to Information is a part of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India, which says that every citizen has freedom of speech or expression. India is a democratic nation wherein people are the masters. Therefore, the masters have the right to know how the government, that is meant to serve them, is functioning. Besides that, every citizen pays either direct or indirect taxes, therefore, they have the right to know how their money is being spent.
The Right to Information Act does not give us any new right. It simply lays down the process on how to apply for information, where to apply, how much fees etc. For the first time in the history of independent India, there is a law which casts a direct accountability on the officer for non-performance. If the concerned officer does not provide information on time, a penalty of INR 250 per day of delay can be imposed by the Information Commissioner. If the information provided is false, a penalty of a maximum of INR 25,000 can be imposed. A penalty can also be imposed for providing incomplete/or rejecting your application for mala fide reasons. This fine is deducted from the officer's personal salary.
Right to Information Act 2005 empowers every citizen to:
The Central RTI Act extends to the whole of India. All bodies, which are constituted under the constitution or under any law or under any government notification or all bodies, including NGOs, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government are covered.
All private bodies, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government, are directly covered. Others are indirectly covered. That is if a government department can access information from any private body under any other Act, the same can be accessed by the citizen under the RTI Act through that government department.
A PIO can refuse information on 11 subjects that are listed in section 8 of the RTI Act. These include information received in confidence from foreign governments, information prejudicial to security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the country, breach of privilege of legislatures, etc.
Yes. Under Section 10 of the RTI Act, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act.
One or more existing officers in every government department have been designated as PIO. These PIOs act like nodal officers. You have to file your applications with them. They are responsible for collecting information sought by you from various wings of that Department and providing that information to you. In addition, several officers have been appointed as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs). Their job is only to accept applications from the public and forward it to the right PIO.
You can do that with the PIO or with APIO. In case of all central government departments, you can go to any of these post offices and submit your fee and application at the RTI counter in these post offices. They will issue you a receipt and acknowledgment and it is the responsibility of that post office to deliver it to the right PIO.
Yes, there is an application fee. For central government departments, it is INR 10.
Draft your application on a normal sheet of paper and submit it by post or in person to the PIO. (Remember to keep a copy of the application for your personal reference)
Every state has a different mode of payment for the application fee. Generally, you can deposit your application fee via:
• In person by paying cash
• By post through demand draft
• Indian postal order
• Money orders (only in some states)
• Affixing court fee stamp (only in some states)
• Banker's cheque
• Some state governments have prescribed some head of the account. You are required to deposit fee in that account. For that, you can either go to any branch of SBI and deposit cash in that account and attach deposit receipt with your RTI application. Or you can also send a postal order or a DD drawn in favour of that account along with your RTI application.
A list of PIOs/APIOs and appellate authorities for all central and state departments/ministries is available online.
Yes. If you file your application with the PIO, you must receive information within 30 days. In case you have filed your application with Assistant PIO then information has to be made available within 35 days. In case the matter to which the information pertains affects the life and liberty of an individual, information has to be made available in 48 hours.
If you do not receive information or are dissatisfied with the information received, you can file an appeal with the first appellate authority. Every public authority must designate a first appellate authority. This officer designated is the officer senior in rank to your PIO. There is no fee for the first appeal. However, some state governments have prescribed a fee. The first appeal within 30 days of receipt of information or within 60 days of filing RTI application (if no information received). If you do not receive information even after the first appeal, then you can take the matter forward to the second appeal stage. Thereafter you can file the second appeal with the information commission within 90 days of disposal of the first appeal or within 90 days of the date, by when the first appeal was to be decided. There are no fees for the second appeal also. Further, there is no requirement of mentioning the reasons for such information.
The main aim of the RTI act is to empower the citizens of the country to know and understand their basic rights. If utilised properly, this act can surely make our nation a corruption free one.
Image courtesy: shutterstock.com
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Posted byMadhur Vinod Kumar
I am practicing as an advocate in Bangalore since the past 20 years. I am also the senior central Govt. Panel Counsel for High Court of Karnataka
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