LEGAL EASE – Dr. Ankit Todi

(E-mail your questions to: [email protected])

The RTI Act and how to go about seeking information from public authorities.

Q: I have been trying to obtain certain information from a government department, but they have failed to respond in spite of reminders. Is there any procedure whereby the department can be made legally responsible to provide information required by me?

– Raktim

Ans: Public authorities have been made responsible to provide information under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Under the Right to Information Act, any citizen of India may request information from a ‘public authority’ (a body of Government or instrumentality of State) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30 days from the date of application.

Right to Information (RTI) is considered as one of the Fundamental Rights, under which required information can be obtained after filing an RTI application. Information that may be provided under the RTI is subjected to certain restrictions where information concerning national security, or official secrets, cannot be disclosed. Regarding the filing of an RTI application, the Act itself prescribes a simple procedure and format to obtain information. Though some public authorities have their own format, there is no compulsion to stick to any such prescribed format. An RTI application can be handwritten or typed on a paper and can be in English, Hindi or the official language of the State; it has to be addressed to the PIO (Public Information Officer) of the Department concerned.

The application should mention ‘Seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005’ in the subject line, and include specific and detailed questions that are clear and complete and not confusing whatsoever. One can also ask for documents or extracts of documents, if required. The application should also include the full name, contact details and address of the applicant, where he or she wants the information/response of the RTI to be sent. The application has to be sent along with the prescribed fee of Rs. 10 (in the form of a Postal Order or Demand Draft or Banker's Cheque) payable to the Accounts Officer of the Public Authority. To obtain any documents, the applicant has to make an additional payment at the rate of Rs. 2 per page for total number of documents. Applicants below the poverty line (BPL) need not make the payment but have to attach a copy of the BPL certificate along with the application.

The application has to be either posted or given by hand to the department concerned with an acknowledgement, and a photocopy of the application is required to be kept for future reference. The law mandates that information be provided in 30 days. In the event of their failure to provide information within the stipulated time, one can file an appeal to ‘the Appellate Authority’ under the RTI Act, within the department concerned which is mandated to revert in 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal. Further appeals lie with the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission as the case may be.