It goes without saying that better informed citizens improve functionality of the Government and helps in propagating transparency and make the Government more accountable. Right to Information Act 2005 (Act) replaced Freedom of Information Act 2002 which was passed in 2002 but not notified. Right to Information Act 2005 came into force with primary objective to establish a structure for providing information to citizens which is under control of Public Authorities. It is not out of place to say that information held by any Government is a national treasure and no Government or its official can use the said information for their own benefit. As per Article 2 (j) of the Act “right to information” means any information which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to inspect documents, records; taking notes, extracts, certified copies of documents, certified sample of materials or obtaining information in the form of Compact disk, floppy or through printouts where such information is shared in computer. Now the question arises what information is not accessible under the Act? The Act determines certain exceptions according to which Public Officer can deny the request to provide information if the information so sought is related to security, intergrity, strategic , economic and scientific interest of the state;if any Court of law has issued any instructions with respect to publication of the information; Information related to IPR; information with respect to prosecution and investigation etc.
Who can file ?Who to Write? What to do when one does not receive proper information? Any citizen of India including Indian living abroad can seek information under this Act. This implies corporation cannot seek this benefit neither a society or foreign nationals. It is mandatory for every public Authority to establish an office of Public Information Officer (PIO) to provide information within 30 days from the date of receipt of RTI application and within 48 hours if question of life and liberty is involved. If one is not satisfied with the information received, he can approach 1st Appellate Authority or Departmental Appellate Authority within 30 days from receiving reply. Appeal can be filed on following grounds :
- a) Non acceptance of Application
- b) Malafidely denying information
- c) Delaying information without providing reasonable cause
- d) Intentionally giving false,misleading, incorrect or incomplete information
- e) Destroying information which has been requested.
DAA can impose fine of Rs. 250 per day upto Rs. 25,000/- upon PIO. Aggrieved by DAA’s action, one can approach SIC (State Information Commission) which is the second appellate Authority within 90 days from the date of information received. It is also empowered to impose fine upto Rs 25,000/- after giving opportunity of being heard to CPIO/SPIO as the case may be.
Next big hurdle before drafting RTI application is to find correct address. However, Google has done the work a lot easier and RTI applications can be filed online at the respective website. The Application can be written in Hindi or English or any other official regional language and no thumb rule formula has been provided to draft application. Information seeker can submit the application by hand, by post or electronically at the website of Public Authority by paying prescribed fees. In case, citizen is confused about the exact address, he can request under section 6(3) of the Act to transfer his application to concerned office of PIO. It is to be borne in mind that Application should be short, concise and to the point and Applicant should avoid any flowery or complicated language. It is absolutely no requirement to mention the reason about seeking information.
The applicant should provide his complete and correct mailing address, email address and phone Number in the Application to avoid unnecessary delays. It is also advisable to mention in the Application about the language in which you wish to receive reply and write the Application in same language. However, documents/records shall be sent to the Applicant in which they were originally prepared and translations of the same will not be provided at the instance of PIO.
While drafting Application some points are to be kept in mind such as instead of seeking opinions, seek information only; do not seek private information of Government officials; refrain from making complaints and grievances and do not make lengthy applications. Finally, keep a copy of the application for future references and take the acknowledgement of the Authority on it.
Government of India has also launched rtionline.gov.in website which provides useful information in respect of rules and procedures for seeking Information from any public Authority. One can directly file RTI application at the above mentioned website by filling requisite fields and paying necessary charges.