The Power of Information

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As we celebrate RTI (Right to Information) Day, the latest initiative by the Times of India I Lead India campaign, Lamya Karachiwala briefs you on the basics of the RTI Act

WHAT IS IT?

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 2005 in a move to empower the rights of citizens and bring more transparency in the functions of the bureaucracy. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It empowers every citizen to seek any information from public authorities (i.e. government employees), inspect any government documents and ask for their certified photocopies. If a public authority refuses to cooperate, they will be fined under the RTI Act.

However, not all public authorities are obliged to disclose information. Those in the Intelligence Bureau, R&AW and similar intelligence and defense services under the Central Government are exempt on account of the sensitive nature of their work. But if an RTI application addressed to them concerns issues of human rights and corruption, these officials must respond.

HOW DO I USE IT?

You can procure information using RTI either online or offline. For an online application, visit this website.

The offline procedure is as follows:

STEP ONE: Write an application specifying the particulars of the required information

  • The application cannot have more than 500 words.
  • The word limit is 150 for the states of Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Make sure you have included your address and that of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) within the word limit.
  • Mention the payment details like Banker’s Cheque/Demand Draft/Public Information Officer (PIO) number, issuing date of bank/post office, cash receipt details, etc., towards the end of your application.

STEP TWO: Pay the fee

  • There are 2 types of fee that an applicant is required to pay:
    • Application fee – An amount of Rs. 10/- via a demand draft or a banker’s cheque or an Indian Postal Order.
    • Additional fees – The cost of materials (photocopies, print outs, etc) used to provide the information, details of which will be provided by the PIO.
    • The fee charges are different for the Central Government Authorities and State Government Authorities. For further information on these charges, visit this website and this.
  • Those below the poverty line are not required to pay the fee.

STEP THREE: Send the application to the concerned Public Information Officer (PIO)/Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO)

  • Submit the evidence of payment of application fee along with the application.
  • If it is sent by post, the proof of sending by post should be retained.

It is necessary to pursue an application once it has been filed, if the information has not been provided.

HAS IT HAD ANY IMPACT?

A successful implementation of the RTI was seen when the NGO, Asha Silicon Valley (Asha SV) in conjunction with Mountain Children’s Fund (MCF) started the Right to Information project in Uttarakhand in 2007. As part of this project, young persons from the villages of Uttarakhand were first trained to use the RTI. They later used this Act to improve their communities; to discourage waste and corruption in a way which furthered the interaction and cooperation between the Government and the communities.

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