Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 came into force on 12th October 2005. It is an act extends to all government organizations including executive, judiciary and legislature and private organizations which are substantially funded by the govenment, of the entire country except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, passed in the Parliament of Government of India. The aims of this act are numerous; to make the system transparent, to reduce corruption, to bring information to the ordinary citizens in the form of official records, proceedings, emails, circulars, govt. orders etc., and to give power to the common man who is the root of Indian democratic system through fundamental rights.
RTI can be used to speed up the process, to make the system work as per the rules, to bring transparency into the system, to inspect any government work, to make officials more accountable. It is an integral and essential part of nation building.
How to get the desired information?
- The applicant should prepare a questionnaire and prepare the application on plain paper. (Some organizations have specific application format and are available on their website.) The applicant should mention
- His/her complete address for communication
- The information desired in the form of questions (reason for asking questions are optional)
- Should mention whether he/she is under Below Poverty Line (BPL) in the application
- The application can be submitted in person or through post to the Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the organization. Every organization comes under the purview of RTI act appoints (PIO) to provide information to the applications received under RTI. To discharge the duties under RTI, PIOs can ask for assistance from any officer, who has to render all desired assistance. If the applicant is not under BPL, then the RTI applications should carry a prescribed application fee (minimum Rs. 10/-), otherwise there is an exemption in application fee. The fees can be paid through Indian Postal Orders, Money Orders, Demand Drafts or through even cash payment. If any further fee is required, then the same will be intimated to the applicant in writing by the PIO.
- After receiving the application, the PIOs should provide the desired information in writing or in any desired form within a specified time limit.
The time limit for giving the information under RTI is 30 days from the date of application and is 48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person. The maximum response time is 35 days, in-case the application for information is submitted to Assistant Public Information Officers (APIO), is extended to 40 days in-case of any third party is involved in the process and 45 days in-case of human rights violation information is desired. Failure to provide information within the specified period is deemed refusal.
The penalties for not providing information or un-necessary delay in information is Rs. 250/- per day and up-to Rs. 25,000/-. For illegitimate refusal to accept application, denial, knowingly providing false information, destruction of information, etc., the penalty is up to Rs. 25,000/-. There will be a recommendation for departmental action for persistent or serious violations. However, denial of information is not a criminal liability.
What to do if the information received is not satisfactory?
If the information received is not satisfactory, then the applicant can appeal within a specified time period (around 30 days) to the 1st appellate authority (officers of senior rank to PIOs or designated officers) of that organization. All appeals are free of cost (some state governments have prescribed a fee). If the applicant does not receive information even after the first appeal then he/she can take the matter forward to the second appeal stage.
RTI should not be used to harass or blackmail any public officer. Similarly, the public officers should not harass the applicant for filing RTI application. In both the cases, law of the state will take care. RTI should be used with right spirit and to build the nation, not to destroy.