“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
Right to Information is one of the most important legislations of recent times, given the growing rate of corruption in India and the desperate need for accountability and transparency.
RTI is your Fundamental Right!
RTI was declared a Fundamental Right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution (Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression), by the Supreme Court in 1976, in Raj Narain v. State of UP, wherein it said that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is now embedded in Article 19. The Court further said that India is a democracy and its people are the masters. The masters have a right to know how the governments that are meant to serve them, are functioning. Therefore, from right to know evolved the Fundamental Right to information.
But just declaring RTI as a Fundamental Right was not sufficient; the Right required a mechanism for its application, wherefore came into existence, the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Steps to use Right to Information
A citizen of India may be able to obtain information from public authorities through the following steps:
1. IDENTIFYING THE PIO: Each public authority has Central/State Public Information Officers (as the case may be) and an Assistant Public Information Officer, in all of its administrative units or offices. Identify which one of them is in charge of receiving application for information that you are requesting.
2.DRAFTING APPLICATION: Address a letter/ application to the CPIO or the APIO (as the case may be for that unit) requesting for the information.
- The application may be typed or neatly hand-written (it should preferably be in writing though e-mail is accepted as a mode as per law) In case an applicant has difficulty in writing the application, he can verbally request the CPIO or the APIO who are duty bound to put the request in writing.
- The application may be in English, Hindi or the official language of the area in which it is being made.
- Some public authorities have devised their own format for the applications which are available on the websites of those authorities. But under the law, there is no compulsion to stick to such format. REMEMBER: Applications cannot be rejected on the ground that they were not in the prescribed format.
- While writing the application, ensure that the Officer is not addressed by his name (he may be transferred, etc). Address only his office. Mention in the application your name, your contact details including complete postal address, telephone numbers and email address (if any), name of the public authority from whom the information is being requested, nature and details of the information requested, whether you wish to receive the information by post and date on which application is being submitted.
- Keep the application brief and to the point. REMEMBER: You need not tell your reason for requiring the information, but mentioning it may strengthen your case.
- Mention the payment details like BC/DD/IPO number, issuing bank/post office, date, cash receipt details, etc., towards the end of your application. Here ends the second step of drafting of application.
3. PAYING FEE: The mode of payment of application fee (Rs.10) differs from State to State and information regarding the same is available on their respective websites. The payment may be made to the Accounts Officer or the APIO. REMEMBER to collect receipt after payment. Additional costs may incur depending on the number of photo copies required, charges for which are as prescribed under Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Costs) Rules, 2005.
4. SUBMITTING APPLICATION: You may submit your application personally by hand, by Registered Post AD or by Speed Post.
- When submitting personally, ensure that you get your copy of the application and proof of payment duly stamped, signed and dated, by the PIO or by the inward department; this is the proof of the receipt of the application.
- When submitted through Registered Post AD, the AD (acknowledgement due) card is returned to you by the postal department, which serves as the proof of submission. Ensure that the AD card comes back to you with a proper stamp, signature and date of receipt; else you may follow up with the dispatching post office to have the card completed. You may track it on http://services.ptcmysore.gov.in/RNetTracking/ and keep a print out of the final delivery with you.
- You may send the application via Speed Post and track it on track it on http://www.indiapost.gov.in/Speednew/track.aspx and remember to keep a print out of the delivery status with you. REMEMBER: It is not advisable to send the application through ordinary post, private courier companies, etc. since these will not provide you with a confirmed proof of delivery.
Once you have followed the above steps and submitted your application, you may expect a reply within thirty days of receipt of the application by the CPIO (as per the RTI Act). If the information sought pertains to life or liberty of a person, the reply will be sent within forty eight hours of receipt of the application. The application may be rejected sometimes, and when so rejected, the CPIO has to provide reasons for such rejection, whereupon an appeal can be made by the applicant and the details of the appellate authority is to be provided by the CPIO.
This covers the basics of RTI.
Much has been and much can be achieved if this right is used to its full potential. From forcing local municipality to fix sewage to exposing corrupt activities of the biggest ministers, this right has been quite a success. Now that a simple mechanism has been established to enable its use, we shouldn’t hesitate to make use of it when necessary.