Thursday , August 22 2019
RTI Act
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Everything you need to know about RTI

Right to Information act came out back in 2005 replacing Freedom of Information Act, 2002. The Act was passed back on 15 June 2005 and came into force on 12 October 2005 with the ideology that every citizen of India has the right to know about its government’s policies, agencies, agendas, propaganda to the full extent that there is.

It has become one of the most beautiful aspects about the Indian democracy as it provides its citizens the very transparency that upholds the true meaning of what Abraham Lincoln said, “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

What is the scope of RTI?

Under this act, any citizen of India has a right to request information from a “public authority” which includes a body of government or instrumentality of the state.

  1. Now the question arises does the right to information also includes the private bodies? The answer is a bit perplexed as the private bodies do not directly fall under the ambit of the act. In Shri Sarabjit Roy v. Delhi Electricity regulatory Commission {CIC/WB/A/2006/00011}, the Central Information Commission held that privatised public utility falls within the purview of RTI. And after 2014, it was declared that private institutions and NGOs receiving 95% of their infrastructure fund from the government will fall under and will be a subject to RTI.
  2. Another famous question arises is that does the political parties fall under the umbrella of RTI? For once Central Information Commission said that political parties are public authorities, and also CIC held that the six parties (i.e, BJP, Congress, NCP, BSP, CPI, and CPIM) have the character of public authorities as well as they have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and therefore they were a subject to RTI till 2014, but in 2014, the parliament of India bought an amendment under the Right To Information Act, 2005 removing the political parties from the ambit of RTI and thus now they are not subject or answerable under RTI.
  3. Another question arises is what does RTI mean by the word “Government” and “Instrumentality of State”. RTI covers “government” and “instrumentality of state” under the term “Public Authorities” and it is defined under section 2 subsection (H) as “ A public authority means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted –

    • by or under the constitution;

    • by any other law made by the parliament;

    • by any other law made by the state legislature;

    • by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and includes any –

    • body owned, controlled, or substantially financed;

    • a non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government.

For a better understanding of what constitutes the term public authorities under the Right To Information Act, 2005 we need to go through the case study of “The Hindu Urban Cooperative Bank Limited and Ors v. The State Information Commission and Ors (2011) (Punjab and Haryana High Court) {CWP no. 19224 of 2006}.” In this case, the High Court held that if any person, or body, satisfies the following conditions then it would surely fall within the ambit and scope of the definition of “public authorities” and would be “legally required to impart the indicated information as envisaged under the RTI act” –

  1. the institution cannot come into existence and function unless registered and regulated by the provisions of legislation; or
  2. the State Government has some degree of control over it through the medium of Acts/Rules; or
  3. it is substantially financed by means of funds provided directly, or indirectly, by the appropriate Government; or
  4. the mandate and command of the provisions of the RTI Act along with its Preamble, aims, objects, and regime extends to their public dealing; or
  5. the larger public interest and totality of the other facts and circumstances emanating from the records suggest that such information may be disclosed.

The Procedure for Filing RTI:

Through Online Portal –

RTI is not only a right but also a power given to the citizens to know about the working, agencies, policies of its government, but in order to avail the benefits of RTI, one must know the procedure of how to file RTI. it is common but at the same time a bit arcane for the common mass to understand the proper way of filing RTI.

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We will discuss the new way of filing RTI that is through the internet. The whole of India has advanced after the scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Digital India” and Central Information Commission has made it easy by introducing a new way of filing RTI online, as the new generation is techno-savvy and it is quite easy for them to avail their right when they need to.

The process of filing RTI follows;

  1. The first thing one needs to keep in mind is which department one wants to file RTI to.

  2. After this, you need to go to the Central Information Commission online portal which is – http://rtionline.gov.in and register yourself. Once registered you can start your application process by clicking on “submit request” button on home page.

  3. Now comes filling the form and one needs to keep in mind to choose the department one wants to file RTI against. With this one should also be very clear about the information he/she seeks such as date, status, monetary value etc and should not use decorative words but simple ones so it’s easy to understand what one seeks to know. The word limit is 3000. With all this one also needs to be very clear when it comes to filing the subject line in which you state why you are filing RTI and one should be very brief about it.

  4. Then there is a section where one attaches all the supporting documents.

  5. After all this, a sum of INR 10 must be paid through the option of debit card and credit card available on their online portal. SBI card holders and Repays card holder enjoys even a simpler way of processing their payments.

  6. After submitting your application you will get a Registration ID to refer to your case in the future. After this, you can track your case with the help of your login id and the reference code given to you and within 30 days their authorities will inform you about the status of your application.

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Through Offline Application –
  1. The first step is to identify the department one is planning to file RTI against. For example, if one wants to obtain information about tax, then he/she should go to income tax department while if that one wants to obtain information about defence then he/she should go to the Ministry of Defence.

  2. After that comes writing the application properly. One should be very clear about what he/she seeks to know and should be brief about it. It has a prescribed format, which should be followed, but it is not mandatory and one can even submit his application in plain paper. Also one needs to be very certain that the questions one ask should be about one topic as the application has a chance of rejection. For example, if you seek information about the agricultural department then the scope of RTI one is filling should be limited to agricultural.

  3. After this one needs to attach INR 10, in form of Indian Postal Order.

  4. After all, this one needs to send the RTI application via speed post or registered post. If one does not receive any update within 30 days then they can approach the Central Information Commission (CIC).

  5. Following is the address of Central Information Commission –

Central Information Commission, 125-126, Africa Ave, Bhikaji Cama Place, RK Puram, New Delhi, Delhi 110022.

In brief, RTI is the power to have absolute knowledge about the government. A government for the people should always be answerable to the people and RTI gives the power to raise questions. I hope the following article gives the common people a better understanding of how to file RTI using both online portal and through the traditional way.

 

– Parth Rishik is a budding lawyer at Law College Dehradun, and a columnist writing on legal topics. He also volunteers actively in various NGOs providing legal aid. 

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