What is RTI ?
What is Right to Information?
Right to Information is a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19 (1) says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. As early as in 1976, the Supreme Court said in the case of Raj Narain vs State of UP, that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is embedded in article 19 and is a fundamental right. In the same case, Supreme Court further said that India is a democracy. People are the masters. Therefore, the masters have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes. The citizens therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent. These three principles were laid down by the Supreme Court while saying that RTI is a fundamental right of the people of India.
If RTI is a fundamental right, then why do we need an Act?
This is because if you went to any Government Department and told the officer there, “RTI is my fundamental right, and that I am the master of this country. Therefore, please show me all your files”, he would not do that. In all probability, he would throw you out of his room. Therefore, we need a machinery or a process through which we can exercise this fundamental right. Right to Information Act 2005, which became effective on 13th October 2005, provides that machinery. It lays down the process on how to apply for information, where to apply, how much fees etc.
Important provisions of RTI Act 2005:
Right to Information Act 2005 empowers every citizen to
- Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information
- Take copies of any government documents
- Inspect any government documents.
- Inspect any Government works
- Take samples of materials of any Government work.
One or more officers in every Government Department have been designated as Public Information Officers (PIO). These are the nodal officers, who are supposed to accept any application under RTI, collect information from that Department and provide it to the applicant. If the desired information is not provided within 30 days of application or if the information provided is incomplete, the concerned officer becomes liable for a penalty of Rs 250 per day of default upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application. And if wrong information is provided, a penalty upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer.
Read sec 2(f), 2(j), 4(1)(d), 5(1), 5(2), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, briefly explain State IC and CIC, 18, 19, 20, 22 of the RTI Act and discuss in detail. These are the most important sections. But if you wish to use RTI frequently in your life, you must carefully read the entire Act in detail later.
(हिंदी में सूचना क़ा अधीकार)
How to Draft a Good RTI Application
The Right to Information Act is a great tool endowed upon the people of India. But tools are useful only when used, and used properly.
Here is a guide to use the RTI Act to obtain the desired result
- Do not ask for information just for the sake of it. Ask information that you intend to use
- Make questions in your application short and precise
- If you suspect some mishandling of responsibilities on someone's part, make sure you ask the name of officers who are responsible for the same
- Put in a question asking what action will be taken against the erring officers
- While trying to clean the system using the RTI Act, it is important to note that we shouldn't always be trying to treat the government officers as the accused. We can only succeed when we get the Government Officers working with us and not against us
- If there is a larger matter that you intend to pursue make sure that you galvanise support around you. Many people asking for the same information in a matter of larger public interest is bound to yield results
- Share your views and replies with the press and on the site
- Follow up with action based on the information received. This could be issuing a show cause notice in case of erring practices, sending information to the law enforcement agencies etc.
Hope that all of us will use this great tool with a great sense of responsibility it deserves.
PLEASE DO NOT MISS OUT ON THESE IMPORTANT LINKS:
PRESENTATION ON - EFFECTIVE WRITING OF RTI
RTI GOOD PRACTICE (हिन्दी)
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS ADVISORY
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS ADVISORY ON 498A MISUSE
WHERE ALL RTI CAN BE FILED?
RTI SUCCESS STORIES
RTI RELATED JUDGMENTS AND NOTIFICATIONS