Escalating an RTI Application – A Detailed Guide
The Right to Information Act (2005) has given ordinary citizens a right to access information from the Government on virtually all areas at the Central, State, and Local levels. Under this act, the Public Authorities are compelled to give information to any Indian Citizen, and if not, they have to give a reason for not doing so.
To strengthen the hand of the citizens even further and also to prevent misuse of the Act and its provisions, a system of escalation was set up to allow an information seeker to appeal to a higher authority if he or she felt aggrieved.
To know more about how to file an RTI Application, please read our article here.
To know more about the RTI Act 2005, and its features, read our article here.
If the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the concerned Public Authority, refuses to give you access to the information you requested, they have to issue an order which outlines the reason for rejection, as well as the time period for filing an appeal, and the particulars and contact details of the Appellate Authority.
You can also appeal if you feel that you have been given misleading or incorrect information; apart from this, if you do not receive a reply within 30 days, (or 48 hours if the case has to do with a person’s life or liberty), the application is treated as rejected and you can begin the appeal procedure.
The appeal should be addressed to the Appellate Authority, who is a person senior to the PIO, and sent within 30 days of the PIO’s decision, or the expiry of the 30 day time limit for providing the information.
While there is no fee for the first appeal in any organisation or body under the Central Government, different State governments may have different rules for bodies under them.
Similar to the initial application, there is no standard format for applications to the Appellate Authority either; however the application should contain the details of the applicant, the name and details of the PIO against the appeal is being made, details of the information being sought, the reasons, if any, given by the PIO for rejecting the application, and any other facts that are relevant to the case.
The Appellate Authority is supposed to dispose of the appeal within 30 days (or in exceptional circumstances 45 days). The Authority may either direct the PIO to give the information or may do it themselves. Their order should also accompanied by an explanation and a justification for the decision.
In case the Appellate Authority also rejects the application, or you feel aggrieved with their decision, you can escalate the complaint one step further to the Central Information Commission.
This is called the “Second Appeal”, and needs to be made within 90 days of the decision of the Appellate Authority, or expiry of the 30 day period for disposing the appeal.
As earlier, while there is no set format for the application, it should contain the details of the Appellant Authority, the facts of the case, the grounds for the appeal, and the relief sought by the appellant, in addition to the information present in the first appeal, and should be accompanied by copies of the orders and documents pertaining to the case.
The Information Commissioner will then go over the facts of the case, and will usually hear from the Public Information Officer, the Appellate Authority, and the Appellant, and will inform the date of the hearing to the parties at least 7 days in advance. While the appellant does not need to be present during the hearing, you can send an authorised representative instead.
The decision taken the Information Commissioner is final and binding, and there is no further course of action available for an information seeker after this.
The simplicity of this system is to ensure that citizens have easy recourse to escalate their quest for information, and by not involving the need for costly lawyers, it enables even the poorest of the poor to take action. The most important element of this system however, is the fact that each stage is time bound, which makes sure that the authorities cannot simply tire you out by passing the file from one official to another.
By taking advantage of the RTI, and other such tools, it becomes easier for us to exercise our rights, claim our dues, and build better lives for ourselves and others.
Source: This information was obtained from ‘Guide on Right to Information Act, 2005’ by the Government of India Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Department of Personnel & Training, and information provided by the Mahiti Adhikar Manch
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