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How To File an RTI Application

8th April, 2010

For reasons best left unsaid, I filed an RTI application. The whole experience, from first point when I thought I should do it, to framing the question, from finding out information, to actually filing it, can be best described as:

Mind-blowingly Awesome!

Huh? What is an RTI?

An RTI (or Right To Information) is an application to request information from a public authority (some, not all). Want to know why trees were cut to create a memorial? Ask it! Have a question on what the government is doing to curb pollution in your city? RTI it!

It all started with a law in the Indian parliament, the Right to Information Act, 2005. This was an attempt to provide a  practical approach for citizens to exercise their right to information.

The best part is that the law is applicable all throughout India (except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, though its not like terrorists don’t know what they need to know anyway!). All constitutional authorities (the executive, the legislature and the judiciary) are covered under this law, as are institutions constituted by the Parliament or any state legislature. Basically, a huge list of government institutions come under this (hopefully) just “eye” of citizens.

An RTI application would contain simple, easy to understand questions, for the concerned authority to answer back. And they must answer back in 30 days! Do note, theres a fee of Rs. 10/- (but it differs for different states!), and an “additional fee” for the reply back.

What should I frame in the RTI application?

An application is not a form (no circles to fill up with HB pencils, and no square boxes that always fall three characters short of your full name). It’s essentially a letter to the PIO (Public Information Officer) or the APIO (Assistant PIO) of the appropriate government authority, clearly mentioning the following:

  • The question, ie, the information you seek should be phrased as a simple and easy-to-comprehend question.
  • That the information you seek is requested under the Right to Information Act.
  • Your full name and address, phone number and email (if available).
  • Your signature, along with the date and place of the signature.
  • The fees, paid via any acceptable method.

How do I send it across?

RTI applications, along with the appropriate payment, are either accepted by post or by hand. If posting, do note that only a few postal services are allowed! Notably, applications sent via private courier services will be rejected. The best option, of course, is Speed Post (by the Indian Postal Service), as you can track your letter.

There are even simpler ways!

We Indians are really lazy. I’m not kidding! There are websites that simplify the whole RTI application process. For example, RTI Nation reduces all the hassle to these simple steps:

  1. Type the RTI application letter online
  2. Pay a fee (of Rs. 125/- as of writing this post), which is more than the application fee.
  3. Submit the application. Do note, you still need to sign it. In such cases, you can choose to either have the application mailed to you, or sent to your email inbox.
  4. Once mailed / emailed to you, sign the document.
  5. Mail / scan it back to RTI Nation.
  6. RTI Nation will then submit the application by hand, with the corresponding fees.

Really, filing an RTI application is not as tough as you might think it to be.

Power to the People!

The RTI Act essentially super-seeded an older law that was in place since the British Raj. That law (Official Secrets Act, 1923) , along with multiple other laws, provided restrictions on the government’s power to disclose information to the public. I will not even doubt that that has been misused.

But the Right to Information Act has been a game changer. It has brought a formal approach to gaining information, and relaxed multiple restrictions on the government to disclose that information. An RTI application is a tool that the conscious citizens of India can use to remind our various government institutions of their accountability to the public. A true democratic trait!

Further Reading

There are many caveats and clauses and conditions that apply, and I suggest you read up first before filing your RTI!

  1. Official Government Site on RTI
  2. Official Site: Guide to Information Seekers
  3. RTI – Citizen Gateway (use this to Search for the appropriate Ministry/organization and their corresponding RTI websites)
  4. Filing an RTI Application on RTINation.com
  5. Forum on RTIIndia.org

(Photo Credit: InsideSouthAfrica)

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. 8th April, 2010 12:54 AM

    dude….ur like the most responsible citizen i know….
    way to go….

    • kranium256 permalink*
      8th April, 2010 9:23 AM

      well .. blame your limited sample set to draw on that conclusion! hehe!

  2. 8th April, 2010 5:52 AM

    Don’t forget to do follow up posts! 🙂

    Most impressed. RTing and Linking and all that.

    • 8th April, 2010 9:32 AM

      Thank you so much! I’ll definitely post some more (once I get more updated on my own RTI 🙂 )

  3. 8th April, 2010 8:38 AM

    Nice post!.. now India is moving towards complete Democracy.. BTW what did you file RTI for?

    • 8th April, 2010 9:33 AM

      Thanks! And as far as my RTI goes, its best left unsaid till I get a response 🙂

  4. 22nd April, 2010 9:20 AM

    Nice post man. More importantly, great stuff to clear our minds. I hate to admit, though most of us love the idea of RTI but are still afraid of it. ‘You always fear what you don’t know’ says Raz al Ghul and that’s the case with most of us. We’r happy staying away from the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.. But now, there will be light.. Democracy will be celebrated..
    So cheers, great job.. Keep enlightening..

    • 22nd April, 2010 6:39 PM

      Thanks man! You know, I have a follow-up post to come up with – will do that soon!

  5. 25th April, 2010 3:11 PM

    Nice theme, more responsible and that much more passionate to know the govt secrets! Way to go Kartikay 🙂

    well, don’t be surprised if you get a reply for your RTI question like this –
    (Assuming : whether we should cut those trees to make a martyr memorial? if so Why?)
    Yes, it is a must required task to be completed now since the construction contractor is over our head to get the bill passed soon to release payments. Yes, we are thinking about creating another memorial for all those trees which attained the status of a martyr by sacrificing their lives for the current one. We are doing so because one of the martyrs final wish was to create a memorial, its okay if it can’t be as big as Mayawati’s ELEPHANT!

    • 25th April, 2010 4:04 PM

      Haha! Nice one Mohan!

      But on a serious note, the RTI is an extremely useful tool for us citizens. Many organizations do take requests very seriously (as they are legally bound to)!

      I urge you to use this too, if and when you feel the need to question the government on almost anything under the sun!

  6. akhil permalink
    9th May, 2010 8:22 PM

    i want help in army

  7. 14th May, 2010 2:02 PM

    What was your RTI application all about? More importantly the response you got for it.

    It is a powerful tool for C-Zens of India. Check out this story

    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/the-unstoppable-rti-maverick

  8. 9th June, 2010 11:07 PM

    The Right to Information (RTI) Act, that empowers Indians to obtain any information about government functioning, is slowly shaping up to be ‘reactive’ in nature. People looking for information have to ask questions, and wait for answers. This model has failed several times (wiki answers, yahoo answers). Making information ‘proactively’ available (like wikipedia) to people is the only way I can see this idea get implemented.

    The next question that arises is the level of confidentiality required in government functioning. It is the state’s responsibility to define lines that differentiate public and private information. Any violation here should be well accounted for.

    The final question lies in its implementation. I can see two ways. In the first way, the government has to open up its software development agencies, thereby letting complete participation, transparency and collaboration from others- working more like an open source ‘bazaar’ development model. The second way is a code for america like model, which can operate privately, and be supported by organizations interested in government transparency and delivery. The engineers of India must understand that they are the greatest stakeholders of the act, or we’ll end up witnessing another idea in Indian democracy that made it to the headlines but never took off.
    Visit- http://souravroy.com

  9. 19th January, 2011 1:31 PM

    I also have a RTI complaint to file, i have already filled up all the required details on the CIC site… i am not able to understand where do i send the signed application and where do i pay the fees. I am from Pune and need information from Indian Railways

    • 20th January, 2011 9:21 AM

      Hi Shachin,

      Thanks for dropping by my blog!

      About your questions:
      1. Who do you send the application to? Search for the PIO or the APIO of your concerned deparment at http://www.rti.gov.in/ (scroll down on the left hand side bar)

      2. How do you pay? You could send a demand draft, a banker’s cheque or an Indian Postal Order along with the application of the correct amount (the amount varies across ministries).

      Read the “Further Reading” links on this post for more information!

      Hope this answers your doubts!

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