How To File an RTI Application
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:
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:
- Type the RTI application letter online
- Pay a fee (of Rs. 125/- as of writing this post), which is more than the application fee.
- 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.
- Once mailed / emailed to you, sign the document.
- Mail / scan it back to RTI Nation.
- 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!
There are many caveats and clauses and conditions that apply, and I suggest you read up first before filing your RTI!
- Official Government Site on RTI
- Official Site: Guide to Information Seekers
- RTI – Citizen Gateway (use this to Search for the appropriate Ministry/organization and their corresponding RTI websites)
- Filing an RTI Application on RTINation.com
- Forum on RTIIndia.org
(Photo Credit: InsideSouthAfrica)