What is RTI?

RTI stands for “Right to Information”. Right to Information is a fundamental right that every citizen has! Basically, the RTI gives you all the information that you want about the Govt. and what they are doing with your tax money!

You have the right to ask our Government, why the roads outside your house are not fixed? Why have you not received your “€œration card”€ as yet? Why is there so much garbage in your area that is not picked up etc.

If RTI is a €œfundamental right, then why do we need an Act?

Simply because if you go into a Government office and demand that they tell you why your work has not been done, they will not entertain you or might even throw you out. If it’€s a law, then it becomes harder to do this. If they do not give you the information you want, they will have broken a law and can be punished for it!

When does it come into force?

It comes into force on the 12th October, 2005 (120th day of its enactment on 15th June, 2005). Some provisions have come into force with immediate effect viz. obligations of public authorities [S.4(1)], designation of Public Information Officers and Assistant Public Information Officers[S.5(1) and 5(2)], constitution of Central Information Commission (S.12 and 13), constitution of State Information Commission (S.15 and 16), non-applicability of the Act to Intelligence and Security Organizations (S.24) and power to make rules to carry out the provisions of the Act (S.27 and 28).

Who is covered?

The Act extends to the whole of India excep the state of Jammu and Kashmir. [S.(12)]

What does information mean?

Information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force but does not include “file notings” [S.2(f)].

What does Right to Information mean?

It includes the right to:

  1. Inspect works, documents, records.
  2. Take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
  3. Take certified samples of material.
  4. Obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.[S.2(j)]
What is the Application Procedure for requesting information?
  1. Apply in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, to the PIO, specifying the particulars of the information sought for.
  2. Reason for seeking information are not required to be given;
  3. Pay fees as may be prescribed (if not belonging to the below poverty line category).
What is the time limit to get the information?
  1. 30 days from the date of application
  2. 48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person
  3. 5 days shall be added to the above response time, in case the application for information is given to Assistant Public Information Officer.
  4. If the interests of a third party are involved then time limit will be 40 days (maximum period + time given to the party to make representation).
  5. Failure to provide information within the specified period is a deemed refusal.
What is the fee?
  1. Application fees to be prescribed which must be reasonable.
  2. If further fees are required, then the same must be intimated in writing with calculation details of how the figure was arrived at;
  3. Applicant can seek review of the decision on fees charged by the PIO by applying to the appropriate Appellate Authority;
  4. No fees will be charged from people living below the poverty line.
  5. Applicant must be provided information free of cost if the PIO fails to comply with the prescribed time limit.
What could be the ground for rejection?
  1. If it is covered by exemption from disclosure. (S.8)
  2. If it infringes copyright of any person other than the State. (S.9)
  3. But, do not worry about this! For an average citizen like you and me, the information we are looking for does not come under these categories. So the PIO can not refuse to give us information
Who will give me information I am looking for?

One or more officers in every Government Department have been made “Public Information Officers” (PIO). If you want some information, you need to file an application with the PIO. The PIO’s are responsible for collecting information wanted by you and providing that information to you.

Also, several officers have been appointed as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs). Their job is only to accept applications from the public and forward it to the right PIO.

Where do I submit the application for information?

You can do that with the PIO or with APIO of the Government department you are questioning.

In the case of all Central Government Departments, certain “post offices” have been designated as APIOs. This means that you can go to any of these post offices and submit your €œfee€ and €œapplication€ at the RTI counters in these post offices.

They will issue you a receipt and acknowledgement and it is then the responsibility of that post office to deliver it to the right PIO. The list of these post offices is in the following link- http://www.indiapost.gov.in/rtimanual16a.html

Is there any fee for filing RTI petition?

Yes, there is an “€œapplication fee”€. For Central Government Departments, it is Rs.10. However, different states have different fees.

For getting information, you have to pay Rs.2 per page of information provided for Central Government Departments. It is different for different states. Similarly, there is a fee for inspection of documents. There is no fee for first hour of inspection, but after that, you have to pay Rs.5 for every hour or inspection. This is according to Central Rules. For each state, you need to see respective state rules.

You can then deposit your application either by post or by hand.

What should I do if the PIO does not accept my application?

You can send it by post. Once you send it along with the fee, your job is done.

You should also make a formal complaint to the respective “€œInformation Commission€”. If the PIO refuse to accept your RTI application, then send it by registered post after writing a note in the application that €œsince PIO refused to accept my this application on such and such date, I am sending this through registered post with acknowledgement card.

The Information Commissioner has the power to take action on the concerned PIO officer who refused to accept your application, if there is evidence

But it is most likely that the PIO will accept your application

Is there an application form to be filled?

For Central Government Departments, there is no form. You should apply on a plain sheet of paper like an ordinary application. However, many states and some ministries and departments have prescribed formats. You should apply in these formats. Please read rules of your respective state.

How can I apply for information?

Draft your application on a normal sheet of paper and submit it by post or in person to the Public Information Officer (PIO). [Remember to keep a copy of the application for your personal reference.

How can I send my application fee?

Every state has a different mode of payment for application fee. Generally, you can deposit your application fee via:

  • In person by paying cash [remember to take your receipt]
  • Demand Draft
  • Indian Postal Order
  • Money orders (only in some states)
  • Affixing Court fee Stamp (only in some states)
  • Banker’€™s cheque

Some state governments have some “head of account”. You are required to deposit fee in that account. For that, you can either go to any branch of SBI and deposit cash in that account and attach deposit receipt with your RTI application. Or you can also send a postal order or a DD drawn in favor of that account along with your RTI application. Please see respective state rules.

What if the PIO is not available?

In case the PIO is not available you can submit your application with the Assistant PIO or any other officer designated to accept the RTI applications.

Where can I find the concerned PIO?

A list of PIOs/APIOs for all Central and State departments/Ministries is available online at www.rti.gov.in

What if I can not locate my PIO or APIO?

In case you have problems locating your PIO/APIO you can address your RTI application to the “€œPIO C/o Head of Department”€ and send it to the concerned department with the requisite application fee. The Head of Department will have to forward your application to the concerned PIO.

Is there a time limit to receiving information?

Yes. If you file your application with the PIO, you must receive information within 30 days.

In case you have filed your application with Assistant PIO then information has to be made available within 35 days.

Do I have to give reasons why I want a particular information?

Absolutely not! You are not required to give any reasons or additional information other than your contact details (i.e., Name, Address, etc.)

Can the PIO refuse to accept my RTI application?

No. The PIO can not refuse to accept your application for information under “any circumstances”. Even if the information does not pertain to his/her department/jurisdiction, she/he has to accept it. If the application does not pertain to that PIO, he would have to transfer it to the right PIO within 5 days.

How does this law help me in getting my work done?

Let us take the case of Ram. He was not being given his ration card. But when he applied under RTI, he was given a card within a week. What did Ram ask? He asked the following questions:

  • I filed an application for a duplicate ration card on 27th January 2006. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?
  • According to the rules, my card should have been made in 10 days. However, it is more than three months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?
  • What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?
  • By when would I get my card now?

In normal circumstances, such an application would be thrown in a dustbin. But this law says that the PIO has to reply in 30 days. If they don’€™t do that, their salary could be deducted. The problem is that it is not easy to answer these questions.

The first question is: Please provide the daily progress made on my application

There is no progress made. But the government officials cannot write in that they have not acted for so many months. Else that would be “€œadmission of guilt on paper”€. Which in a legal term for saying that they are going to be “€œbooted”

The next question is: Please provide the names and designations of the officers who were supposed to take action on my application and who had not done.

If the government provides names and designations of the officials, their responsibility gets fixed. Any officer is most scared of fixing of responsibility against him in this manner.

So, the moment one files such an application, his/her pending work is done.

What should I do after getting information?

It depends on why you asked for that information and what type of information is it. Often a lot of things start falling in place just by asking for information. For instance, you would get your passport or a ration card just by asking for the status of your application. In many cases, roads got repaired as soon as the “money spent” on repairs was asked. So, seeking information and questioning the government is an important step, which in itself is complete in many cases.

But suppose you expose some corruption or wrongdoing using RTI. Then, you can complain to vigilance agencies, CBI or even file an FIR.

But one thing is certain. Seeking information like this and exposing the corruption does improve the future. The officials get a clear message that the people of that area have become alert and any wrongdoings in future would not remain hidden as they were in the past. So, their risks of getting caught increase

How can I get Government related work done without having to pay bribes?

Generally, when you go to a Government office to get some work done, the situation is quite apathetic. Majority of the Government employees will either not listen to you or they will give you a vague response or they will raise some “€œirrelevant”€ objection.

This is generally done because the employees are “€œfishing”€ for a bribe! They are hoping that you will get frustrated and give them a bribe to “€œmove things faster!”€ Do not give the bribe to them. Use the RTI Act and get your work done. Here we will show you how you can do this!

Just as an example, let us assume that you applied for a new water connection about a year back, but still nothing has happened about it. What you should do is, write an application according to the rules of your state and send it to the PIO of the Govt. department you are dealing with.

The application you write can be on these lines:

I had applied for a new water connection about a year back, but have not received the same. Copy of the receipt of the same is enclosed for your reference. Please provide the following information with respect to the same:

  • Please provide the daily progress report made on my application.
  • Please give the names and designations of the officials with whom my application was lying during this period. Please intimate the periods when it was lying with which officer and what was the action taken by that official during that period.
  • Please give the proof of receipt and dispatch of my application in the office of each of these officials.
  • According to your rules, in how many days should a new water connection be granted? Please provide a copy of these rules.
  • The above officials have not adhered to the time limit mentioned in these rules. Are these officials guilty of violating these rules and hence guilty of misconduct under their conduct rules. Please give a copy of their conduct rule, which they have violated by violating the above mentioned rule.
  • These officials have caused serious mental injury to me by making me run around all this while. Are these officials guilty of causing mental harassment to the public?
  • What action can be taken against these officials for violating all the above rules and the conduct rules? By when this action would be taken?
  • By when would I be granted my water connection?

Normally, it becomes difficult for the officials to reply to these questions. If they do reply to all the above questions, this will lead to them taking action against the officers who have not been performing their duties. The general experience is that the moment you file such an application, the work is done.

How do I fight against corruption?

Generally, cases of corruption are either dropped on some “€œtechnicality”€ or the progress in these cases is very slow due to some influence. Because of this, corrupt officials go free!

You can put an end to this. Use RTI! You can seek details from the “vigilance wing” of any government department. In case you don’€™t know, the “€œvigilance wing”€ is supposed to keep an eye out and investigate into all malpractices, frauds etc.

You can send an application to the PIO and ask for the following details:

  • Please give a list of all the officials against whom any complaint of corruption was received from any quarter during the period ________ to _______.
  • Please give copies of all these complaints.
  • Out of the above, which of the cases have been dropped and why? I would like to inspect all these files. Please intimate the date and time when I can come to inspect these files.
  • Please indicate the progress being made in the rest of the cases.
I need help in filling an RTI application. Whom should I ask?

To file an RTI application, you can take help from 5th Pillar in one of the following ways:

  1. Email your issue to RTI@5thpillar.org copied to ENDcorruption@5thpillar.org and one of our RTI team members will assist you in filing the RTI application.
  2. Visit our Chennai HQ or Coimbatore Zonal Office and undergo the FREE RTI training held every Saturday :Chennai: 5th Pillar Headquarters, 41, Circular Road, United India Colony, Kodambakkam, Chennai – 600 024. India.

    Coimbatore: 170-A T.V.Samy Road(West), R.S.Puram, Coimbatore – 641 002.

  3. Call us on: India: +91 44 6527 3056 (or) USA : +1 301 591 0986
Where can I get the Zero Rupee Notes?

Zero Rupee Notes(ZRN) can be obtained from any of our 5th Pillar coordinators or offices; our Chennai HQ team is always happy to ship a few ZRNs to you if you call or email and provide an address. ZRNs can also be downloaded in 5 languages from off of our website from the link “Zero Rupee Note” under “Programs” menu.

I live outside of India, how can I get the Zero Rupee Notes?

If you want a single or few notes you can download it from our website and color print. If you live in the US, and need large numbers to distribute in a community event or gathering, our Washington DC chapter can mail it to your address.

What is the difference between 5th Pillar Volunteer and 5th Pillar Member?

5th Pillar members are paid members and they are enrolled as members of 5th Pillar in our official records, but Volunteers are not paid but they support and help for our activities.

What is purpose of collecting membership fee?

As in every organization, there will be some administrative expenses for smooth running of the organization and this requires some funds. Apart from that, we need our own materials to be printed and circulated. All these require fund and we collect a minimum amount.

Is there any additional benefit of being a member versus a regular volunteer?

The members can attend the meetings of the organization, can avail the magazines of circulars which we publish, whereas the non-paid volunteers may or may not be provided that. Members are enrolled in our organizations register and can become a coordinator or any other designation, but a volunteer cannot become an office bearer unless he pay the membership fee and become a member of the organization.

I am a school/college student. Can I also become a member? Can I pay a reduced member fee?

Yes, the Annual Membership fee for a college student is Rs.100 and for a school student is Rs.50. All other members residing in India can become a member by paying a fees of Rs.200 per year or become a life time member by paying Rs.2000.