Right to Information

By – Supriya

Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information. Since every citizen pays taxes, therefore he is entitled to know how the government is functioning . The Act empowers every citizen to seek any information from the government, obtain copies of any government documents , inspect any government documents , works and records , and take certified samples of materials of any government work. According to Act No . 22 of 2005 , The Right to Information Act is ” An Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities , in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority , the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 13 October 2005. The RTI Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir . All bodies, which are contributed under the Constitution or are under any government notification ,or all bodies , including NGO’s , which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government are covered under the Act. All authorities covered must appoint their Public Information Officer (PIO) . In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) to receive RTI requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIOs of their public authority. Any person may submit a requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIOs of their public authority .
Any person may submit a request to the PIO for information in writing along with the application fees, which is ₹ 10 for Central Government Departments and different for different states.The application fees can be deposited either in cash, demand draft , cheque or money order. In the case of all Central Government Departments ,629 post offices have been designed as APIOs. This means that one can go to any of these post offices and submit his/her fee and application at the RTI counter in these post offices. A receipt will be issued as an acknowledgement and it is the responsibility of that post office to deliver it to the right PIO. It is the PIO’s obligation to provide information to citizens of India who request information under the Act. However, in case, one has problems locating their PIO/ APIO , one can address their RTI application to the PIO C/o Head of Department and send it to the concerned public authority with the requisite application fee. The Head of Department will have to forward his/her application to the concerned PIO. The PIO cannot refuse to accept application for information under any circumstances . Even if the information does not pertain to his/her department / jurisdiction, the PIO has to accept it and would have to transfer it to the right PIO within 5 days under sec 6(2). If the PIO or the concerned Department does not accept the application , it can also be sent by post. Moreover, the applicant can also make a formal complaint to the respective Information Commission under Section 18. The Information Commission has the power to impose a penalty of ₹25000 on the concerned officer who refused to accept the application. The Act also casts a direct accountability on the officer for non – performance . If the concerned officer does not provide information in time , a penalty of ₹ 250 per day of delay can be imposed by the Information Commissioner and if the information provided is false , a penalty of a maximum of ₹ 25000 can be imposed. The applicant is not required to disclose any information or reasons other than his name and contact particulars to seek the information . The Act specifies time limits for replying to the request. If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt ; in case of an APIO , the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt , and information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations is to be provided within 45 days. However, if life or Liberty of any person is involved , the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.
If the applicant does not receive information or is dissatisfied with the information received , s/he can file an appeal with the first appellate authority under Section 19 (1) of the Right to Information Act . One can file their first appeal within 30 days of receipt of information or within 60 days of filing RTI application, if no information is received. Even after the first appeal , if no information is received , then one can take the matter forward to the second appeal stage with the Information Commission, without paying any additional fees and within 90 days of disposal of first appeal . A second appeal is the last option under the RTI Act to get the information requested . For appeals against Central Government Departments, there is Central Information Commission (CIC) and for State Government Departments , there is State Information Commission.


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