This article was originally published in Postnoon on August 3rd, 2012
The Right to Information Act (2005) became effective in October 2005 to empower every citizen to ask questions from the Government. This Act has given the Indian citizens the right to seek information and take copies of government documents on one hand and made the public officers accountable on the other.
The application may be submitted electronically or in a hard copy to the designated Public Information Officer (PIO). Every government department now has a PIO who is responsible to provide the information to any and every applicant.
The application should be accompanied with a payment of Rs10 towards processing charges for the Central Government Departments. The fees may vary from state to state for the departments at the state level. It can be paid in Cash, by a Demand Draft or by a Money Order. You must remember to take a receipt for the application fees paid.
Write or type the application in a clean, white sheet of paper. Frame the questions clearly with the intention for finding out reasons rather than accusing. For example, avoid using words like ‘Why did you” and “How could you”. Instead use words like “share the process followed” or “would like to know the manner in which…”. There is no limit to the number of questions that can be asked. However, it is advisable to keep your list of questions short and queries precise.
The application must contain the name of the person asking for information, his/her signature and application fee details like DD or Cheque Numbers. The reason for seeking information need not be stated as any Indian citizen has the Right to Information.
The application may be rejected if the department is exempt from disclosure or if the disclosure infringes upon the privacy or copyright of a person other than the government.
The upper limit for providing the information is 30 days. However, it is only 48 hours in cases involving life or liberty of a person. It is 35 days if the application is given to the Assistant PIO and 40 days if the information concerns a third party from whom the department might need to get the information before responding to the RTI application. If the information is not provided within these time frames, it is deemed as a refusal to provide information.
One of the reasons for the success of RTI is that if the information is not provided within 30 days of application, it directly penalizes the concerned officer by deducting Rs 250 per day of delay up to a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application, from the salary. If wrong information is provided, a penalty up to Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer.
RTI is the right step to make the governance of the country more credible and transparent.