The RTI (Right to Information) Act was enforced to empower people. Introduced in 2005, the Act aims to bring accountability and transparency in the working of the Government. An initiative by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Act gives every citizen the ‘right to information’ and also the right to get a timely response. Read on to know the process and understand the Act.
WORDS: SANGEETA SINHA
The Right to Information (RTI) was introduced to empower citizens so that they become better equipped to keep vigil on Government activities. It gives all citizens access to information under the control of public authorities and this helps promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
The Act extends to the whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir. It gives every citizen the right to seek information from a public authority and the right to get a response within 30 days. It covers all constitutional authorities, the executive, legislature and judiciary and is one of the most powerful laws of the country.
Filing an RTI is a simple process and every citizen should know the process. The application can be written in English, Hindi or the official language of the state he/she resides in.
It is important to have clarity on your query while filing such petitions; ask specific and clear questions. Give your complete contact details so that you get the RTI response on your mailing address. Keep a photocopy of your application and send the original through post or you can even submit it to the Public Information Officer (PIO) in person.
Make sure you receive an acknowledgement slip in case you submit the form in person. If you plan to send by post, it is a good idea to send it by registered mail so that you have an acknowledgement slip on the courier.
The Act is simple and people-friendly to the extent that even an illiterate person can file an RTI. He can tell his requirement and the concerned person is obliged to write it down and read it to him before processing it furthert.
And if you wish to do it online, some departments have the facility for filing an online RTI. Also there are various independent websites that help you file online RTI.
All central and state government agencies come under the purview of the Act. You can demand any information related to Municipal Corporations, Government universities, schools, Provident Fund department and other similar agencies.
The list is exhaustive and RTI has huge scope. The Government is obliged to even give information related to telephone bills of ministers, money spent on foreign trips, money spent by your representative to improve your constituency and much more. You have the right to information because it is your money which you pay in the form of taxes each year.
However, few organisations are exempt from RTI due to security reasons; those related to the country’s defence like the CRPF, BSF, RAW etc. Also, courts have disallowed release of any information that relates to a foreign government or any information that would affect the safety of any individual.
But one point is clear – any information which cannot be denied to an MP or state legislator cannot be denied to any citizen.
RTI for personal/community issues
Often, we are bothered with problems related to our tax refund, pension release, withdrawal of PF, release of Aadhar card, issuance of documents related to driving license, passport, property and similar other issues.
If you are not getting any answers or you are not satisfied by the response of officials, you can get them through an RTI. Filing an RTI will guarantee an official response within 30 days of your filing. And then based on the response you can take your case further.
Similarly you can even raise issues related to your area or community. If any government property is not maintained then you have the right to question and get a response.
Issues like bad road conditions, potholes and bad water supply all are covered under RTI. You also have the right to know how your representative spent the funds allocated to him/her for the development of your constituency.
There is a small amount which you will require to pay along with your application. For central government departments one needs to pay ₹10 with every RTI application. For public authorities under the state governments, the rates may vary. In addition to the application fees, there is also a fee for the information to be delivered (depending on format/number of pages).
It is important that citizens use RTI to turn India into a great democracy. Our duty doesn’t end by just voting; it requires us to be more vigilant and take an active role in the running of our government machinery.
The government is making efforts to make the system more transparent and giving citizens the right to question and get response.
Refusal of application
It is not necessary that every RTI gets accepted. Sometimes you may not get the information or your RTI application itself is not accepted. There are options you can explore in case this happens.
You have the right to know why your request was rejected and also the details of whom you can approach to appeal against this refusal. You are also entitled to know how much time you have to file this appeal.
If you don’t get a satisfactory answer or you have a complaint with the way in which the PIO handled your RTI application, you can file a complaint with the Central or State Information Commission. They have a duty under this Act to inquire into your complaint.
Your application may be rejected for the following reasons –
If it has not been completed properly
It is not precise as to what specific information you need
The information you have requested is covered by an exemption
The application can also be partially rejected, if some of the information in the documents you requested is sensitive and falls under an exemption.
If you do not receive a decision from the PIO within 30 days, you can file an appeal against the decision before an officer who is senior to the presiding officer
You need to file this appeal within 30 days. This time period may be extended if the officer feels that the delay is justified
If you are not satisfied with the first appeal decision, you can make a second appeal within 90 days to the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission by following the suggested format for the second appeal
A daily penalty of ₹250 can be imposed on the PIO for withholding information or providing wrong information. This has to be paid until the information is provided. However, the total amount of the penalty should not exceed ₹ 25,000. But before doing this, the PIO is given a chance to present his/her case.
You have the right to know why your request was rejected and also the details of whom you can approach to appeal against this refusal. You are also entitled to know how much time you have to file this appeal./span>