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Yash Garg , 25 Feb 2021

What Is The RTI Act?

The Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens.” Simply put, it allows citizens of the country to request information from any public authority about its work, actions, etc. and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. The Act is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

Bodies Covered Under The RTI Act:

Bodies which are covered by the Central Act are referred to as “Public Authorities”. Section 2(h) of the Central Act clarifies the term “Public Authorities” mean:

All Central, State and local level bodies which are set up under the Constitution or under any other State or Central statue. This means that it covers the President, the legislature and the judiciary and all related Ministries, departments and agencies.

Anybody owned, controlled or substantially financed or any non-Government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by Government. This means that even some private bodies which receive funding from the Government can be asked for information.

Unfortunately, section 24(1) of the Central Act goes on to limit coverage by entirely excluding some bodies from the law such as security or intelligence agencies. Section 24actually allows Governments to add bodies to the list of exempt agencies, so you should consider checking whether any such Rules have been made where you are considering making an application to a security or intelligence agency.

At the State level, coverage is variable, with some laws covering more bodies than others. Most of the State Acts do not cover private bodies, so you may not be able to access information from a private telephone company or electricity body.

If you believe that your application relates to more than one body, you should try to decide which body you think has the closest connection with the information you are seeking and then send your application to them. In any case, the relevant body should be under a duty to consult with any other relevant body to make sure that all the necessary information is collected. Notably, the Central Act actually includes a specific requirement that applications which are directed to the wrong body are transferred to the body which does hold the information. This recognizes that the public should not be expected to chase lots of different bodies because this will be costly and complicated.

Method Of Filing An RTI Application:

An RTI application can be filed in one of three ways:

  • Online: Visit and login to file an RTI.

  • Via post: send your application to the concerned department via speed post or registered post.

  • In person: Visit the Public Information Officer/ First Appellate Authority (FAA) of the concerned department and he/she will guide you further.

How Do I File An RTI Application?

The procedure to file for an RTI is fairly simple. There are two types of Appeal which are as follows:

Procedure For First Appeal:

Identify which department your query concerns and who the Public Information Officer/ First Appellate Authority (FAA) there is.

Write a simple, to-the-point application form detailing your questions clearly. Also mention ‘Seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005’ in your subject line

Pay the fee of Rs. 10. Payment can be made via Demand Draft or Indian Postal Order or can even be submitted to the treasury. Proof of payment (such as challan sand receipts) must be enclosed with the application. Online options for the payment are also available here. Submit the application either via post, online or in person.

It is necessary to take a photocopy of the application for future reference.

When Can I Expect A Response To My RTI Request?

By Law, RTIs Must Be Replied:

First Appellate Authority (FAA) has to decide on the appeal within 30 days, from the date of receipt of first appeal.She/he can take a further 15 days (total 45 days), provided they give the reasons for the delay in writing.48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person.5 days shall be added to the above response time, in case the application for information is given to Assistant Public Information Officer.

RTI – Second Appeal:

However, if the appellate authority (FAA) fails to pass an order on the appeal, within the prescribed period, or if the petitioner is not satisfied with the order of the first appellate authority. They have the option of escalation to file a second appeal, with the Central Information Commission. The second appeal must be within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made by the first appellate authority, or was actually received by the appellant.

The appeal made to the Central Information Commission (CIC) should contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the appellant.

  • Name and address of the Public Information Officer, whose decision is being appealed.

  • Particulars of the order including number, if any, against which the appeal is preferred.

  • Brief facts leading to the appeal.

If the appeal is preferred against deemed refusal, particulars of the application including number and date and name and address of the Public Information Officer, to whom the application was made and relief

Grounds for the relief sought.

Any other information that you think will help the Commission in deciding the appeal.

The Appeal Made To The Informational Commission Should Be Accompanied By The Following Documents:

Self-attested copies of the order or documents against which appeal is

Copies of the documents relied upon by the appellant and referred to in the appeal.

An index of the documents referred to in the appeal.

RTI Success Stories:

Adarsh Society Scam: The applications filed by RTI activists like Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were instrumental in bringing to light links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-storey building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives. The scandal has already led to the resignation of Ashok Chavan, the former chief minister of Maharashtra. Other state officials are also under the scanner.

Public Distribution Scam in Assam: In 2007, members of an anti-corruption non-governmental organization based in Assam, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, filed an RTIrequest that revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people below the poverty line. The allegations of corruption were probed and several government officials arrested.

Appropriation of Relief Funds: Information obtained through an RTI application by an NGO based in Punjab, in 2008 revealed that bureaucrats heading local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society used money intended for victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills – among other things. Local courts charged the officials found responsible with fraud and the funds were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

IIM’s Admission Criteria: Vaishnavi Kasturi a visually-impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes – despite her impressive score at the entrance examination. Ms. Kasturi wanted to know why, and wondered whether it was because of her physical disability. She filed an RTI application to request the institute to disclose their selection process. Although she failed to gain admission to the institute, her RTI application meant that IIM had to make its admission criteria public. It emerged that the entrance exam, the Common Admission Test, actually mattered little compared to Class 10 and 12 results.

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