What is Right to Information

By writing on a piece of paper we can seek any information from the Government, inspect any Government documents and seek certified photocopies thereof. And trust me, once you are RTI Activist they shall have to reply to you... Hon'ble Supreme Court said "People are the masters, therefore, the masters have a right to know how the government, meant to serve us, are functioning." Truely! Why not. Every one of us pay tax. Therefore, we also have a right to know how our money has being spent. RTI ACT 2005 only enables this process on how to apply for information, where to apply, how much fees etc to obtain the information from Government, bla..bla..bla...No Worries! If you are interested in some formal writeup on the vision and mission of the RTI, please go ahead and read the Premable to RTI Act.. There are no formal methods of becoming RTI Activist.

Remember that...

One or more officers in every Government Department have been designated as Public Information Officers (PIO). These are the nodal officers, who are supposed to accept your application under RTI, collect information and provide it to you in writing. If the desired information is not provided within 30 days of application by you or if the information provided is incomplete, the concerned officer becomes liable for a penalty of Rs 250 per day of default upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application. And if he provides you the wrong information, a penalty upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer. What are you waiting for now. Be it your own problem or your friend, you are here to improve your quality of life and become an Activist by checking the mismanagement and corruption of government and to bring transparency and accountability in the working of Government. Let's head straight to become RTI Activist.

What do you need...

Use simple online tools to reasearch your first RTI

To be an RTI Activist your first step is to draft an RTI. Before you draft your first RTI, you need to select the topic. The topic can be as simple as to know about your delay in Passport to something like finding about poor construction of roads in your locality. Research existing efforts. Most causes already have some action going on at your local, city, state, or national level. Find out what exists now and where you fit in. One thing that you don't want to do is to reinvent the wheel and make more work for yourself or worse, to confuse things with your input. Try hard to read and download the RTI applications from the Directory and consider whether you'll form a part of that or somehow bolster it in constructive ways but independently.

Use sample RTI for your RTI

Once you are clear about the topic of your RTI, find out the relevant sample RTI available at this place. Remember that Government officers have also become very smart in evading your RTI and had already devised multiple ways to deny you the information. RTI INDIA has been around for past many years and witness to thousands of such cases. The best course is to read the comprehensive Guide.

Do it right first time

First read the article on How to write an RTI Application. While maintaining your sharp queries in the RTI application , also maintain a sense of courtesy, respect and a basic understanding of ego. In a nutshell, nobody likes being told that how they're doing the work is wrong and surely you don't either. Instead, focus on issues. Remember that when you participate in RTI activism, you're a visionary and as such, you have an obligation to build a picture of how things could be better.

If any time, you are unsure of your first draft, head straight to the community and ask them to either vet your RTI or draft an RTI for you. This way you make sure that your first RTI is solid.

But first introduce yourself: The absolute best way to get people interested in your RTI is through contact. An RTI Activist is more likely to respond to your request to help if they feel like they're wanted and needed in a group by you. So don't hesitate to introduce yourself to online community.

Spread your work

Bloggers can be activists through their writing, teachers can be activists by encouraging students to challenge their beliefs etc. But you need to gain confidence on your RTI skills first. The best way is to share your work with other interested friends. What better place other than RTI DIRECTORY where thousands of RTI are already uploaded and shared.

Finer Details for being an RTI Ninja

You should be prepared for refusal or incomplete reply by PIO on your RTI. They shall take recourse to Section 8.1 (d) of RTI Act reads as: “information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;”. However, to invoke above reason, information should have following characteristics:

  1. Information should relate to third party, including public authority.
  2. Its disclosure should be harmful for competitive position of third party or public authority.
  3. Applicant is not in a position to prima-facie prove larger public interest in disclosure. This cannot be invoked when frauds or scams have been committed with public money.
  4. Information should relate to/constitute commercial confidence or trade secret or intellectual property of third party [including pubic authority].
  5. PIO provides meaningful justification on how disclosure would harm competitive position of third party or public authority and how it constitutes commercial confidence, trade secret or intellectual property. Just stating sub-section is not sufficient.

The PIO has to give the reasons for rejection of the request for information as required under Section 7(8)(i). But they are generally in habit of quoting the bare act in denying information to you. Remember that, merely quoting the bare clause of the Act does not imply that the reasons have been given by PIO. He should intimate you as to how he had come to the conclusion that rule 8(1)(j) or any other exemption clause was applicable in reply to denial of your information. If he has not explained the reasons for denial of information, clearly it amounts to malafide denial of legitimate information attracting penalties under section 20(1) of the Act.

Please be aware that the Public Information Officer's (PIO) decision is not the final word in a given matter and that as a RTI Applicant you have an access to three tier hierarchical system by way of first and then second appeal under the RTI Act, as described below:

  • RTI Application u/s. 6(1) with the PIO.
  • Not received the information / not satisfied with information supplied by PIO / no decision by PIO: First Appeal u/s. 19(1) with the concerned First Appellate Authority (FAA).
  • Still not received the information / not satisfied with decision of FAA / no decision by FAA: Second Appeal u/s. 19(3) with the Information Commission

If no reply is received within 40 days of mailing RTI application [including postal time of 10 days], first appeal needs to be filed within 30 days from the date reply should have been received. It has to be mailed by registered AD /speed post. No fee need be paid for central govt. information. However, some State Govts. [like Maharashtra and Orissa - Rs.20 by affixing court fee stamp] have prescribed fee for first appeal which needs to be paid as per RTI rules applicable to that State. Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, WB, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, UP, AP, Goa have not prescribed fee for first appeal. Please read the Centre/ state-wise RTI rules. Use the template for filing your First Appeal.

There may be chances that you are not satisfied with the response of First Appellate Authority (FAA). Don't worry! You have 90 days for filing Second Appeal with the Central Information Commission or the respective State Information Commission, from the date of FAA 's order. Here is the FAQ's for filling Second Appeal under RTI Act and here you shall find the details on how to file a second appeal.

Evaluate Yourself

Refine your RTI skills, go ahead and take an RTI Quiz.
Help others at the RTI Forums in drafting RTI Application and earn some serious reputation
You can also do 'Online Certificate Course on RTI' operated by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India (GoI) in association with the Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad. The course has been bifurcated into two versions, namely - 7-Day Online Certificate Course (English) and 15-Day Online Certificate Course (English). The primary objective of the course(s) is to make both information providers and information seekers aware on the salient features of the RTI Act, 2005. Thus, the course(s) is/are useful to both government employees and common citizens.

Finally

The most important part.
Register yourself as RTI ACTIVIST and acclaim your position.