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The Right to Information Act Is a Powerful Tool. Here’s How You Can Use It to Your Benefit.

Just as the bank can’t ask why you want to see your bank account statement, the government can’t deny if you ask how they govern our country.

Did you know that Hockey is not our National game? This was revealed in an RTI filed by a class VII student, Aishwarya Parashar who sought information on a government order pertaining to India’s national game. Quite surprisingly, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in its response stated that ministry has not declared any sport as its national game.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India is the world’s biggest democracy. Right to Information Act, 2005 ensures that the people we put in power remain answerable to us always and by no means can they use public funds arbitrarily. It is one of the most powerful legislations in the hands of the people that empowers them to seek information from the government.

This Act is immensely vital for the functioning of any democracy as it sanctions its citizen the right to inspect the work of the government and ask for certified copies to know the status of the work of different government projects. The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.

Who would have thought people would file RTI to know the details of the quality and quantity of tobacco consumed by the officials of Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

In another interesting RTI, a political activist in 2014 asked the Election Commission of India why election symbols used in electronic voting machines are black and white and not colorful.

You can literally ask anything through an RTI, starting from the electricity bill of your local commissioner to the amount spent by the government in training of an athlete. A young girl in her RTI asked who has gave the order for printing Mahatma Gandhi’s image on currency notes.

It has been more than a decade that the Act has been passed and it has emerged as a powerful tools for people of India to promote transparency and hold people accountable who are in power.

Indians file nearly 60 lakh RTIs every year, the highest number of such information requests in the world. A total number of 2,74,737 RTI applications were filed under standalone in different departments and agencies of Delhi.

The government  is our servant and we have no duty to explain why we seek information from them. The government holds all the information in our behalf, in trust. Like a banker can’t ask you why you want to see your bank account statement, similarly the government can’t deny if you ask them how they are governing our country.  

RTI activists have unveiled some of the most horrific scams like adarsh housing society scam, 2G scam, commonwealth scam, Red Cross Society Scam, Pratibha Patil land controversy.

Simpreet Singh RTI activist said, “It just takes 10 Rs to right a wrong. The biggest achievement of RTI is that it tells the most powerful people that they are not beyond the reach of a common man.”

The impact created through this legislation can be seen through some of the landmark judgements, for instance, the applications filed by Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 in the matter of Adarsh Scam were crucial in disclosing the links between politicians and military officials. This 31-storey building had permission for only 6 floors which was meant entirely for the welfare of war widows and veterans. Instead, these flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives.

In another matter, where Vaishnavi Kasturi, a visually impaired student was denied a seat in Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore despite her impressive score in the entrance exam filed an RTI to know why was she denied admission. She couldn’t get admission to the college but due to her RTI, IIMs had to make their admission criteria public. It appeared that more weightage was given to 10th and 12th exams than the score of the entrance exams.

In an another matter an RTI filed by an NGO based in Punjab it was revealed that the funds that were meant for victims of the Kargil War were used by the bureaucrats to buy cars and air-conditioners. The court charged these bureaucrats with fraud and the funds were then transferred into Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. A 9-year-old called Pranav filed an RTI that forced the Delhi police to register his bike.

To ease the process of India’s experiment with transparency the Delhi government is all set to inaugurate an online RTI portal. With this portal, the process of filing, tracking, payment and response will be available at few clicks. Through this portal you will also be able to file appeals online. Delhi becomes the first Union Territory, to make the filing of the RTI and related process online.

To simplify the process for filing RTI there will be separate sections on the portal providing guidelines and frequently asked questions. The portal will also provide for a feedback mechanism. Through this portal one can file the application online, once that is done the portal will allow tracking the application. There will be a pendency report available, e-mail and SMS alerts will also be provided. In fact the documents can be uploaded and mailed to the applicant. RTI fee will be payable through SBI e-payment gateway.  

How to file an RTI application

You can file an RTI in three ways-

  1. Online – visit rtionline.gov.in and log in to file an RTI online  
  2. Via Post – Send your application to the concerned department via registered post or speed post.
  3. In Person- Visit Public Information Officer of the concerned department to file the RTI.

Procedure for filing an RTI-

  1. Identify the department you have to seek information from. Certain subjects fall within the ambit of State or Central government and others fall within the ambit of local authority such as municipal administration/ panchayat.
  2. Write out the RTI application by hand or type it English, Hindi or the official language of that area.
  3. Address the application to the State/Central Public Information Officer. Write the name of the office you seek information from and clearly mention that “ Seeking information under RTI Act”
  4. Pay Rs. 10 to file the plea. You can pay  in form of cash,
  5. You should always take a photocopy of your application and keep it with you for future reference.
  6. The law mandates that information should be provided within 30 days. If this does not happen you can file an appeal to the appellate authority with the name of the department and the address. The appellate authority is mandated to revert within 30 days from the date of the receipt of the appeal.                                                                                                                      

If you need any assistance filing an RTI, contact LawRato. 

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Written by LawRato

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LawRato.com is India's leading legal advice platform.