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Everything you need to know about RTI

RTI Basics Guide

The Right to Information Act was passed to empower the citizens of India, bring in transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and control corruption. Through exercise of right to information, people are now better informed and equipped to keep necessary check on authorities and make government more accountable to the people for its actions and inactions. The Act allows every Indian citizen to seek information from government departments, public offices and government officers by filing a simple application

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Right to Information Act, 2005

By provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every Indian citizen has the right to ask a public authority for information regarding its operations. Being able to access public records is vital for the smooth functioning of a modern democracy. The basis for democracy is openness in the functioning of the government. Openness can only be met when the 'right to know' is exercisable by the common man.

This Act gives the citizens a right to seek information at par with the Members of Parliament and the Members of State Legislatures. The Right to Information Act was brought forth to improve the flow of information from the state machinery to the common man and to increase accountability of bureaucrats for their actions. 

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Who has the right to seek information?

Only citizens of India can ask for information under the RTI Act. Artificial legal persons such as corporations, associations, and companies, societies are legal entities, but not citizens. As such, artificial legal persons cannot ask for information as a matter of right. However, an application can be made by an officer of such artificial legal persons (provided the applicant is an Indian citizen) in his own name. In such cases, it would be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the corporation etc.

Who can be asked for information?

Information under RTI act can be asked from all government departments, public offices and government officers, including those appointed under the constitution - such as the President of India, the Prime Minister of India, Members of Parliament, Chief Justice of India, etcetera. Further, any institution formed by an act of Parliament, or by an act of a state legislature, by order or notification of the government falls within the purview of RTI. Also, bodies which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by government and NGOs which are substantially financed by the government are also covered by the Act. However, the right to seek information from a public authority is not absolute. There are certain organisations and certain types of information that are exempt from the scope of the RTI Act.

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What information can be asked for?

The RTI Act allows citizens to ask for records, documents, circulars, contracts, reports, papers, emails, memos and all other information held in print or electronic form from any public authority by following the prescribed procedure. This right includes physical inspection of work, documents and records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; and taking certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority. As a general rule, all information can be sought by making an application under the RTI Act with the relevant department.

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What is the procedure for filing an RTI application?

  • In order to get information using an RTI, an application has to be filed with a designated officer, called Central Public Information Officer (PIO), of the concerned public authority. The applicant requesting the information is not required to specify the reason as to why the information is needed.
  • Identification of the department is necessary to know if the authority falls under the purview of municipal government, state government or central government.
  • On a white paper sheet the application should be typed or handwritten with details regarding the office you seek information from and the address.
  • The application should be sent to the Public Information Officer with a subject line of, 'Seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005'.
  • A fee of Rs. 10 is charged to file the plea. A proof of the payment should be enclosed within the application. Applicants below the poverty line need not make any such payment.
  • The application can be submitted via post or in person. A copy of the application should be kept with the applicants.
  • If the public Information Officer rejects the application, a reason for such a rejection is given and the period for an appeal is mentioned.
  • The application can also be made online.
  • The applicant has to take care to avoid framing the application in such a way which may lead to dismissal of the application.

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What is the time period for furnishing information?

In normal course, information to an applicant is to be supplied within thirty days from the date of receipt of application by the public authority. If information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, it is required to be supplied within forty-eight hours. If the Central Public Information Officer fails to send decision on the information requested, within a period of thirty days or forty-eight hours, as the case may be, the information may be deemed to have been refused.

In what cases can information be denied?

A citizen has a right to obtain information from a public authority in the form of letters, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts, if such information is already stored in a computer or in any other device.

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The following type of requests for information may be denied by the Central Public Information Officer:

  • Where the supply of information is sought in a particular form, which would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or may cause harm to the safety or preservation of the records;
  • Where the applicant expects the Central Public Information Officer to give information in some particular format or pro forma created by the applicant
  • Where the applicant expects the Central Public Information Officer to extract only a portion of the information on the basis of research by the Central Public Information Officer.

Appeal under Right to Information Act

Under the act any information asked for, should be provided within a period of 30 days. If the officials fail to comply with this then the applicant can make an appeal to 'The Appellate Authority' mentioning the name of the department who has failed to provide the requisite information.

If the Appellate Authority also fails to respond in 30 days, the applicant can appeal to the Information Commission at the state or central level. In exceptional cases the time period can be extended to a period of 45 days.

It is to be kept in mind that the rejection for information made by the relevant government official may be valid and there are certain restrictions about the nature of information which may be asked.

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What is the procedure for filing an RTI application?

  • In order to get information using an RTI, an application has to be filed with a designated officer, called Central Public Information Officer (PIO), of the concerned public authority. The applicant requesting the information is not required to specify the reason as to why the information is needed.
  • Identification of the department is necessary to know if the authority falls under the purview of municipal government, state government or central government.
  • The application should be typed or handwritten on a white paper sheet alongwith the details and address of the office you seek information from. The application should be sent to the Public Information Officer with a subject line of, 'Seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005'.
  • A fee of Rs. 10 is charged to file the plea. A proof of the payment should be enclosed within the application. Applicants below the poverty line need not make any such payment.
  • The application can be submitted via post or in person. A copy of the application should be kept with the applicants.
  • If the Public Information Officer rejects the application, a reason for such a rejection is given and the period for an appeal is mentioned.
  • The application can also be made online.
  • The applicant has to take care to avoid framing the application in such a way which may lead to dismissal of the application.

An applicant can file a complaint to the Information Commission under RTI Act in case of the following circumstances:

  • if a Central Public Information Officer has not been appointed by the concerned public authority.
  • if the Assistant Central Public Information Officer has refused to accept the application or appeal for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be.
  • if the applicant has been refused access to any information requested by him under the RTI Act.
  • if the applicant has not been given a response to a request for information within the time limit specified in the Act.
  • if the applicant has been required to pay an amount of fee which the applicant considers unreasonable.
  • if the applicant believes that the information supplied is incomplete, misleading or false.

This post is written by Sumitra Nair of Pune University. For any info related to RTI matters, appeals to Appellate Tribunal or High Court, please dial 99888-17966 for LegalSeva.

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