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Before going into the practicalities and procedures, here is a brief introduction about the Right to Information (RTI) law in India. The fight for access to information movement began in Rajasthan during the early 1990s. By mid-1990s, the movement became a national campaign which gave rise to the Freedom of Information Act of 2002.
As unbelievable as it may sound, the background for the Freedom of Information Act dated back to 1948 when the United Nations held a conference in Geneva. The Freedom of Information Act was never notified and so came in the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) of 2005.
After a long-fought battle for the Right to Information, every Indian citizen now has the right to demand information from Union, State or Local government-run departments and even organizations that receive a significant amount of government funding.
To get a broader and detailed picture about the Right to Information Act of 2005, please read our other post on RTI titled “The Right to Information and its Uses”.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the first and well known mass movements for Right to Information took place in Rajasthan. And the organisation responsible for it was the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan (MKSS), who started the movement in the early 1990s. Similarly, numerous other activists from various other organisations started to push for the law of right to information of all citizens of India.
Since it is well understood that the Union, State and Local governments play a huge role in the day-to-day lives of people, it is only fair for people to have access to what the government is doing and how it is functioning. Therefore, after much struggle, the RTI act came into place and in the act, it was stated that any person who is a citizen of India, has the right to information. This is given under section 3 of the RTI Act.
Interestingly, there is another provision of the RTI Act, which is the section 6, which states that, ‘a person’- who desires to obtain information, should submit an application to the concerned authority.
Previously, there have been issues before the Court questioning whether an NRI can file an RTI. And in one of the Supreme Court Cases of 2011 of Central Information Commission vs. The State of Manipur, the court said that section 6’s interpretation is much wider than section 3.
Therefore, from the readings of the judgments and what the law has to say, it is thus understood that, any Indian citizen can file an RTI, an Overseas citizen of India (OCI) can file an RTI, any Person of Indian Origin (PIO) can file an RTI and any person, who is representing a larger group of individuals can also file an RTI application.
There are two modes of filing an RTI application, the first is offline RTI application and the second is online RTI application submission.
The following steps will guide you to file an RTI application offline:
Step 1 - You should first decide which will be the appropriate department that might hold the information you need. You should decide if your query is related to local municipality or the State government or the Central Government.
Step 2 - You can write your application or type it out in Hindi or English. If in case you’re seeking information from the local authority, you can use your local language.
Step 3 - You have to clearly write the address of the authority you are sending the application to. It should be addressed to the Central/State Information Officer of that department. If you need a format to write an application, you can have a look at a format mentioned here. You should also not forget to affix your name, address and your place of residence. This is the address to which the information you request will be sent to you.
Step 4 - You have to clearly mention what kind of information you require. Write down specific questions. There is no limit on the number of questions you wish to ask. But you have to keep in mind that all the questions need to relate to the same subject. The questions or information requested should not relate to a different subject or shouldn’t bring another department into picture.
Step 5 - Once your application is prepared, please remember to pay a nominal fee of Rs. 10. You can pay this amount through cash, bank draft, money order or a court fee stamp. If any person falls under the category of Below Poverty Line (BPL), he/she doesn’t have to pay the fee – but has to show proof that they come from BPL category.
Step 6 - Once your application is ready, you can send it through post or you can hand it over personally to the concerned department. Remember to collect the acknowledgement receipt or the acknowledgment letter. This will help you in case you need to register a complaint or just for future reference.
Step 7 - You then need to wait for the department to send the information you requested from them. This should be within the time limit prescribed by the Right to Information Act. To know more about the prescribed limit, you can check out our article on the basic information on RTI titled - “The Right to Information and its Uses"
Yes, as previously mentioned, you can file an RTI application online as well as offline. The procedure is simple for filing an RTI application as well. You can follow the below mentioned steps to quickly file your RTI application:
Step – 1: Visit this website: https://rtionline.gov.in and create a username and password for your account. Although creating an account is not necessary, it will just make it easier to track your past applications.
Step – 2: On the top left corner of the website, you will find an option called ‘Submit Request’. Once you click on that, there will be a box that will pop up giving you certain guidelines to fill your RTI. Click the box next to ‘I have read and understood the above guidelines’. And then click submit.
Step – 3: You can then see your RTI Application request form here - https://rtionline.gov.in/request/request.php. Fill the options according to the information that you need and therefore, you have to select the departments accordingly.
Step – 4: The most important step is to fill in the ‘Text for RTI request application’. Here you can mention about the information that you need within 3000 words. If your text is more, you can click on the supporting documents field and upload a file.
Step – 5: If you need SMS notifications on your mobile, you can select that option and fill out the form. You can omit all the areas/questions that do not have an asterisk sign (*) on them. Also, select the fields such as BPL according to your requirements.
Step – 6: Once you click submit on the application, you will see a unique registration number that would be created. You can use this unique registration number as a reference for the future.
Step – 7: The next step is the payment of the fee. If you do not belong to the BPL category, you have to pay a fee of 10 Rupees for submitting an RTI application. You can then click on ‘make payment’. You can pay through internet banking or your ATM card/Debit Card or your Credit card.
Step – 8: Once you have successfully completed this, you will get an email and an SMS alert saying that the submission of application has been successful.
You can request information from the three levels of the government. That is, the Central, State or Local government authorities. For example, there are certain issues that fall under the purview of the Central Government. If you want to request information relating to Defence, you should be contacting the Ministry of Defence. Having said that, there are certain crucial secretive information which the government is not liable to disclose even though you file an RTI.
Once you have ascertained the department from which you seek information, you should address your application to the Public Information Officer (PIO) of that particular department or Authority. It is advisable that you should clearly note down as to which authority is concerned with the issues under which you seek information. And also, if you seek different kinds of information that relates to different public authorities, the reply might take much longer than the actual time limits prescribed.
Similarly, if you require information regarding the Income Tax, you can file your RTI with the Income Tax Department. If you are taking the online route to file your RTI Application request under the RTI Act of 2005, you can make a request through the RTI Online Portal to the Central Ministries/Departments and other Central Public Authorities mentioned in ONLINE RTI request form. You can find all of them in the drop down options.
Any person can make a complaint to the Information Commission. The reasons for filing a complaint could be numerous such as –
The Public Information Officer has not been appointed by the concerned department.
The PIO or Assistant PIO has refused to accept your RTI application;
The PIO or Assistant PIO has refused to refused to accept your Appeal
Or you have been refused access to information that you desire
Or you haven’t received your response in the time limit prescribed by the RTI Act and the Rules.
Or if a hefty fee is demanded from you for the information you request.
Or if you believe that you have been misled in anyway or have been given incomplete or false information.
You can visit this online address to file a complaint under the RTI Act - https://dsscic.nic.in/online-complaint-application/onlinecomplaintapplication
Keep the details of your application or any appeals that you may have filed handy. You will need that to fill the complaint form.
If you are filing an RTI Application through the offline mode, you can pay the application fee in the form of cash, money order, bank draft or a court fee stamp. The stamp should be affixed to the application. 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. It is advisable to use a court fee stamp, as it is the easiest to acquire. Bank drafts and postal orders take time.
If you are completing the RTI application in the online mode, you can pay the fee through online banking system or your ATM-cum-Debit Card or your Credit Card on the internet portal immediately after completing your application.
According to the RTI law in India, in most cases, it mandates that information be provided in 30 days after the application is received by the PIO.
Many a time, the prescribed time limit is not met. If the reason is from your end, i.e., not payment of fee etc., the department will wait for you to complete the formalities first.
If the lag is from the department’s end, you can file an appeal. You should then file a first appeal should address to ‘The Appellate Authority’ with the name of the concerned department and the address. The appellate authority is mandated to revert in 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal.
If the Appellate Authority also fails to reply to you, you can file further appeals with the Information Commission, the Chief Information Commissioner, State/Central Information Commission
Once you file an RTI application online, you can check the status of you application. You can go to the following address and view the status: https://rtionline.gov.in/request/status.php
You just need to enter the unique number/registration number of the application that was created when you submitted the application. Following this, you can put in your email-id and the security code available on the website. Once you have filled everything, click submit and then you will be able to check the status of your application.
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