Filing an RTI Application – A Detailed Guide
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, has given the Citizens of India perhaps their most potent weapon in their quest for good governance. This Act ensures that through the process of submitting a Right to Information (RTI) application, any citizen can access information and documents belonging to the government and public authorities.
To know more about the RTI Act 2005, and its features, read our article here.
While we have no doubt heard of how RTI activists have used this act to hold corrupt and inefficient officials accountable, and bring important issues to the public’s attention, many of us have no clue how to actually file one ourselves.
As with most activities associated with the government, the very thought of filing an application brings to mind images of serpentine lines, complicated procedures, and huge delays in actually getting things done.
The reality is that it’s actually quite easy.
The process begins with writing the application itself. While there is no standard format, many states and government organizations have their own ready-made formats, which are all quite similar to each other. It all essentially boils down to a letter that includes the specific details of what information is being sought by the applicant. It may be in English, Hindi, or an Official State Language.
Most government organizations and public authorities have designated Public Information Officers (PIOs), Assistant PIOs, and Appellate Authorities to whom the application is to be addressed to. The application can be submitted to either the Assistant PIO or the PIO himself/herself. The names and contact details of these officials are usually found on the website or in the offices of the respective organisations, and are not very difficult to obtain.
The best applications are always short and concise, and ask for specifics. If the application is vague or ambiguous, the PIO may be unable to give you the exact information you need, or even use it as an excuse to deny your application.
The next step is to provide proof of payment. The application fee for an RTI application is Rs. 10/-, which is to be submitted along with the application, either as a Demand Draft, Banker’s Cheque, Indian Postal Order, or Cash, payable to the Accounts Officer of the Authority in question in exchange for a receipt. If there is no Accounts Officer, the organization is to designate a person for the same. Some organizations under the Government of Maharashtra also accept Court Fee Stamps of Rs. 10/-, but please check with them first before using this method.
If a person is below the poverty line, he or she does not have to pay the fee, but will have to produce proof of their BPL status while submitting their application.
In addition, there certain other charges that would apply such as the cost of photocopying the information, which is charged at Rs. 2/- for each in A-4 or A-3 page created or
Copied, and the actual charge or cost price of a copy in a larger size of paper. If you have asked for information in an electronic format, then the cost is Rs. 50/- per CD.
In certain cases, you may want to inspect certain records or documents rather than take a copy, for this no charge will be paid for the first hour, but you will have to pay Rs. 5/- for every hour after that. Maharashtra State rules may also apply depending on the organization which means a charge of Rs. 5/- for every fifteen minutes instead.
The postage charges, if any, would also have to be paid by the applicant.
The details as to how much the additional fees are due, are to be provided by the PIO to the applicant, and after showing proof of payment, you can take the information.
The final step is to submit the application form to the Public Information Officer, or the Assistant PIO. This can be done in person, through post or through E-Mail. Please ensure that you take a copy or obtain some other proof of receipt showing the date of submission, as all RTI Applications are time bound.
This means that you should receive a reply (either positive or negative) within 30 days of submission of the application. In cases where the life or liberty of someone is in question (and it must be clearly mentioned on the application), the reply is to be given within 48 hours.
If there is a delay, there are strict penalties imposed on the officials including a charge of Rs. 250/- per day, up to a maximum of Rs. 25,000/-, in addition, the information would then be given free of charge to the applicant.
As you can see, the process is quite simple and can be done by almost anybody. The government has also introduced a portal for filing applications online with payments via Debit/Credit Card. Unfortunately as of now this portal only accepts applications for departments and organizations that come under the Central Government.
There are also several websites and organizations that will file applications on your behalf, sometimes for a fee. The need to pay for these services is debatable, as it is quite easy to file an application yourself, and there are plenty of organizations willing to help you for free.
If you feel that your request has been denied unjustly, that you have been given incorrect or misleading information, or if you haven’t received any reply at all, you can take steps to escalate the matter and appeal before a higher authority.
To find out how to escalate an RTI Application, read our article here.
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
Tags: Be Legally Aware