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Guidelines of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005

Written by:
Mehak Sharma
Published on
27-Aug-19

The Right to Information Act of 2005 is a law that was a result of a lot of hard work done by numerous activists from all across India. The Right to Information, as the name suggests, has been recognized as ‘a right of the citizens to know’, by several judgments of the Supreme Court of India.

The act was brought into place mostly for the purposes of making the public authorities and public offices more transparent and accountable to the citizens of India. One of the key players in bringing this was the Supreme Court of India which, before the enactment of the law, made important statements such as the one below. 

In the first of its several judgments, the Supreme Court of India even went on to say that “It is not in the interest of the public to ‘cover with a veil of secrecy the common routine business’… the responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption.” 

This law of right to information in India is therefore quite evolved and includes almost all matters of governance. It is applicable to all levels of the Government, i.e., Union, State and Local and also includes those who receive substantial government funds.

The Objective and Purpose of Right to Information Act 2005

The main purpose and object of the act is to empower the citizens of India and increase their participation in the democratic process. The Right to Information Act was also brought into place with the objective of making the government at Union, State and Local levels more transparent and accountable. 

Though the Right to Information is only implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution of India, through this act, the law makers wanted to ensure a practical setup for citizens to secure information. We all understand the importance of being a more informed and well-equipped citizen of the world’s largest democracy. It is in our advantage to use this Act thoroughly to make our democracy work smoothly. 

This act is probably one of the best measures taken by the law makers to put power in the hands of the citizens to gain information regarding the activities of the Government. 

Who can derive benefits from the RTI Act 2005?

The ultimate beneficiaries of the RTI Act are the citizens of India. All the citizens of India have the right to seek or access information from the public authority or the information that falls within the purview of a public authority’s control. 

Since anybody from any age group can use this law, this is a practical regime for the citizens of India to have a more accountable and transparent government. 

So then, is the Right to Information a fundamental right guaranteed to every Indian Citizen?

The Constitution of India does not particularly mention the Right to Information as a fundamental right. But as we mentioned previously, the Supreme Court of India has discussed the importance of this Act in several of its cases. 

In Bennett Coleman judgment, the Right to Information was held to be included within the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. 

In one of the cases by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, it was even said that right to information is a human right. 

Therefore, even though the Constitution of India does not explicitly mention the Right to Information as a fundamental right of the citizens of India, it is definitely a facet of the fundamental rights. 

As previously mentioned, the Courts, including various High Courts in India, have time and again stated the importance of Right to Information to the citizens and how it is a part of the fundamental rights enshrined under the Constitution. 

What kind of information can you seek under the RTI Act 2005?

Since the RTI Act 2005 is one of the strongest legislations for the citizens of India, any information relating to the Union, State or Local governments or public authorities can be sought under this act. You can even seek information about the organisations that receive considerable amount of government funding. 

Some of the examples of successful RTI applications which has helped bring several scams into limelight are the Adarsh Housing Society Scam which led to the resignation of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, the extremely infamous 2G Scam, Commonwealth Games and diversion of Dalit Funds Scam , the Red Cross Society scam, just to name a few.  

Several ridiculous RTI applications have also been filed. One RTI applicant even wanted to know the wi-fi speed of the Prime Minister’s office. It was revealed in the reply to the RTI as 34 Mbps!  

It is therefore evident that citizens can ask for any records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form from the government.

Citizens can also ask for information which includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being in force.

Apart from these, the citizens have the right to inspect work, documents and records; they can take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; and can also take certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority.

The RTI Act also mentions that the information which is sought by the citizens should be available and existing. It has to be held by the public authority or needs to fall under the control of the public authority. No information which is not available in any of the records should be made up and given to the person requesting the information. 

How can I use the RTI Act 2005 to gain the information that I want?

Any person who wishes to gain information regarding public authorities or any area which falls within the control of a public authority can write an application on a plain paper. There is no prescribed format to gain information from any authority. 

You don’t even need to give the reasons as to why you are seeking the information. The only requirement is for you to provide an address where the information you sought will be sent to you. 

However, there is a small fee or a token amount which is to be paid for gaining access to information that you need. The fee is not applicable to people living below the poverty line. 

If you just want to inspect the records, you can inspect for free for the first hour. Post this, you would need to pay a fraction amount per fifteen minutes of inspection which is only Rs. 5 for most cases. 

The fee for gaining information can also be submitted online along with a request letter. 

Following is the fee prescribed that is mentioned under the Act:  

Application Fee: Rs. 10

Mode of payment: Cash against receipt/ demand draft/bank cheque

Additional Fees:

A-4/A-3 size paper

Rs. 2 per page

Large size paper

Actual cost

Samples, models

Actual cost

Publication and printed form

Price so fixed or Rs. 2 per page photocopy for extracts

Floppy/disk

Rs. 50

Inspection of records

Inspection of records is free for the first hour, following which, Rs. 5  is to be paid for each 15 minutes or a fraction amount. 

As stated earlier, if any person lives below the poverty line and needs to seek information, no fee is applicable to him. The only condition is that the person has to submit proof of his claim that he is below the poverty line. 

Time limit to get information under the RTI Act 2005

The time limit to gain information from the public authority is a period of 30 days from the date when the application is submitted to the authority. This is the time limit for a normal course of action when an RTI application is filed. 

Further, in varying situations, the time limit may differ on the basis of need and urgency of the matter. 

Some of the examples of varying time limits for different situation is displayed below:

If application is not made directly to the public authority and is made through an Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO)

30 Days normal application time + 5 Days for processing through APIO

If you’re requesting information  that concerns the life or liberty of a person 

48 hours

In case you submit an application to one authority and it gets transferred to a different authority  due to the reasons of getting sent to the appropriate authority

30 Days after application is received at the concerned authority.

And, in cases of life and liberty of a person, 48 hours after application is received at concerned authority. 

In cases where you are requested to pay additional fee for your application 

The time from when this notice is sent to you until the time you take to pay the additional fee is excluded from the total time limit. 

In certain cases like allegations of human rights, firstly, it has to be approved by the Central information commission 

Time taken in this case is 45 days from the date of receipt of application. 

If the information requested relates to allegations of corruption 

Time taken is 30 days from the date of receipt of the application.

 

How many times can an RTI application be filed?

Once you have filed your RTI application, you will see the following outcomes: 

  • You receive a satisfactory reply within 30 Days or 48 hours depending upon the case at hand. 

  • If you receive a dissatisfactory response, you have two further options:

  1. You can file a first appeal with a senior officer within the concerned department

  2. Or you can file complaints with the Information Commissions which is present in every state. 

  • If you are dissatisfied with the first appeal, you can file a second appeal with the Information Commissions. 

  • Once you have filed these, the Commission can either dismiss your appeal as groundless or issue written notice to the concerned public authority. 

  • Of course, if all these options do not work for you, you can always take your complaints to the Court. 

Alternately, there is no bar on the number of times you can file an RTI with different departments. But one must first wait for a reply from the concerned department after making an application. It is a wrong practice to keep filing RTI applications with one department. 

If you have several questions relating to several subjects in a single application, it is advisable to file separate applications for separate subjects. There is no prohibition on the number of applications that one can file. 

Therefore, there is no limit on the frequency or the number of times an RTI application can be filed with the concerned department. 

To know more

If you need in-depth information regarding filing an RTI  or you need to consult an expert lawyer regarding any query with respect to finding the appropriate authority to file your RTI application or how it needs to be framed, MyAdvo, a legal tech facilitator helps you in this.

Not only does MyAdvo let you find a lawyer anywhere in India online, but we will help you with all or any questions you have to file your RTI and other legal issues.

All you have to do is connect with us at support@myadvo.in or call us at +91-9811782573 and express your concerns right away; and we’ll look into the rest.