How to file an RTI (Right to Information) Petition/application/query
I have filed a number of RTI petitions so far with various administrative bodies including the UPSC, India Post, UGC and CSIR . Some of my friends in the past have enquired on how to file an RTI petition.
The cyberspace is full of this information yet I intend to elaborate the same here minus the jargon. This is not exhaustive; please must visit the links provided at the end of this article and read more.
My friend Shivaji Mukherjee, a research scholar with the Yale University, wanted to file some RTI petition in course of his research on Naxalism and phoned me in this connection. This post has been triggered by his query. Next time a friend/acquaintance is asking me this, he/she will directed to this entry.
- The Basics first. RTI, put simply, is meant for empowerment of the people. Knowledge is power and RTI intends to give this power to people. The RTI act was passed in the year 2005 in India with a lot of hullabaloo and noise. It was a demand long overdue. The most prominent names associated with the RTI activism are Arvind Kejriwal and Aruna Roy, the two Ramon Magsasay Awardees. The Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.
- 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[S.2(f)]“.[excerpted from the Act].
- 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 (APIO).
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. “
- The Fees: “The fee charge should be “reasonable” and no fee is to be taken from people below the poverty line. If further fees are required, “the same must be intimated in writing with calculation details of how the figure was arrived at.”
- Who are the PIOs (Public Information Officers)/Where to file the RTI application: “PIOs are officers designated by the public authorities in all administrative units or offices under it to provide information to the citizens requesting for information under the Act. Any officer, whose assistance has been sought by the PIO for the proper discharge of his or her duties, shall render all assistance and for the purpose of contraventions of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a PIO.”
- So, you submit your application to the concerned CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) of the institution. Every government body has to notify the names of CPIOs/PIOs with whom an RTI application can be filed.
- You just have to find the name of the officers from the website of the institute and deposit your RTI query by hand/post/courier. Also retain a photocopy of your RTI with yourself.
- Pay the fee by cash/cheque/demand draft/postal order. Some state government institutions also accept money orders and court fee stamps. My experience is only with central govt. institutions so far (explore the links below if you have some state government institution to bother). Do not forget to take the acknowledgment/fee receipt if you are depositing the RTI petition by hand.
- Your information should reach you by registered/speed/ordinary post in 30 days. Many government institutions (such as the UPSC) are not very forthcoming in releasing information (for obvious reasons).
- You can make the first appeal to the superior of the PIO within the institution and the second appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC). The High Court and the Supreme Court comes next! The first appeal is a simple application like the first one to the superior of the PIO (with all the details) but the second appeal (to the CIC) is more elaborate and you must read the details/protocol for submission on the CIC website.
- You can ask a variety of questions in your RTI petition such as your exam marks, expenditure by a government body on a certain item, past year questions, errors made in question papers by examining bodies, instances of unethicalism and the like.
- Just make sure that you do not ask something that is not covered by the law such as cabinet papers, trade secret etc. and that you do not ask to bodies like IB, R&AW, CBI etc. (they are sacred cows!). Read the act to know more.
- Be brief in your application (government officers are not voracious readers!) and give all your details including address, signature and phone no.
- I filed RTI application when the JNU campus post office staff was lazy and irritating! I filed RTI application when UGC and CSIR behave unethically when they declare results of the previous exam after the last date of filling the application forms for the next (the practice cotinues unabated)!
- I filed RTI application when JNU administration’s internet connection (Wi-Fi) makes us wait eons or when the local photocopier will insist on back -to-back photocopying only (and not one side of the page only which is less profitable for him)! Little success but great satisfaction! I have followed only one RTI petition (UPSC) until the third appeal (it is with the CIC, hopelessly).
Here are two samples from my RTI applications. The first one was to UGC (a similar one was sent to CSIR too).
Joint Secretary/ CPIO
University Grant Commission (U G C)
Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi
Pin: 110 002
Date: February , 2008
[Subject: Seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005]
Please find attached herewith my RTI queries. It relates to the examinations conducted by the Commission. It is a total of three pages including this cover page.
You are free to inform or reveal any additional information related to these queries or any other information about the examinations.
Please find enclosed herewith an amount of Rs ____ in postal order/cheque/draft/cash. Feel free to email me for any additional information.
Name, add, email, phone no.
1. With respect to the UGC NET examination, you have been publishing results of the examination only after the last date of applying for the next examination is over or is approaching! This leads to tremendous wastage of students’ money in that those who are selected also end up applying due to the non publication of the result! Keeping the above in view, please inform the following:
(a) Please give the following dates for the last ten years. Please inform in a suitable table, if possible.
(I) Date on which the UGC NET examination notification was published for all such examination held in last ten years
(II) Date on which the applications for the said examination were to be submitted (i.e. the last date of submission of application forms)
(III) Date on which the UGC NET results were published in the last ten years
(b) What is the total number of candidates in each of the UGC NET examination held in last ten years who applied for the examination but were selected on the basis of the preceding examination…
(I) Either for NET or JRF
(II) For NET only
(III) For JRF
(c) What is the total amount of money collected in last ten years from candidates who applied for the UGC NET examination but were selected for JRF/NET on the basis of the immediately preceding examination?
(d) What is the rationale behind not publishing the UGC NET results before the last date of applications of the next such examination? Please also inform how you think it is not unethical.
2. Please inform the rationale behind not publishing the question papers for the past years.
3. Please agree with or argue against the following popular belief:
The format/style of UGC NET examination is not suitable to test the research skills/acumen of candidates. It is more like the UPSC Civil Services Examination which is unfortunate.
4. Candidates believe that the UGC NET evaluation of answer sheets is not satisfactory and it is an unpredictable examination. In other words, candidates are not selected despite a good performance and the vice versa!
Keeping this in view, please inform about the evaluation of answer sheets in detail. Please include factors like payments made to examiners, selection of evaluators/examiners, site of evaluation (UGC or examiners’ homes), ways to minimize/eliminate partiality/subjectivity in evaluation, modus operandi of evaluation, availability of model answers with examiners, number of answer sheets lost (if any) in recent years etc.
5. Please give the following data in a suitable table. Please inform for each examination held separately.
(a) Number of candidates who applied for the UGC NET examination in last two years.
(b) Number of candidates finally selected for the UGC NET examination as in NET or JRF in last two years.
Here is a sample RTI petition to the UPSC
Sh. Prachish Khanna,
Central Public Information Officer (CPIO),
December , 2008
Subject: Seeking Information under the RTI Act 2005
Please provide the following information:
1. The UPSC Chairman in the 82nd foundation day speech informed that the “Commission have reviewed the whole process of Civil Services Examination and have made a proposal to the government to replace the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination with an objective type Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT).” Please give more details on the proposed CSAT. Please inform about the nature and content of this examination.
2. Please give me a copy of the Mehdi Verma Committee Report (2006).
3. Is shooting with a camera by visitors/tourists of the UPSC premise allowed? Please answer in Yes or No. If No, please inform why you have not put up written advisory in the premises to prevent inconvenience to visitors who are prevented by your security guards while clicking photos.
I am submitting 20 Rupees by cash as the application fee.
So, as easy as ABC!? Go ahead, file your first RTI! As Aruna Roy says even if 1 per cent of the population uses it, you know what!
To begin with, if you are a JNUite, file an RTI with the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on why there are almost nil DTC buses in the route no. 615!
Wait, visit these links and read more. There is so much I didn’t tell you!
- Central Information Commission (CIC)
- Parivartan (Kejriwal’s NGO)
- persmin.nic.in [download a copy of RTI Act]
- rtiindia.org (must visit)
- Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
- rti.aidindia.org [has application templates too]
Got anything to say? Leave a comment. Must check the ‘comments’ for more on the RTI.
Update: I have petitioned the DTC on buses in my campus.