By Hitesh Jain on September 21,2019

INTRODUCTION

The preamble of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 provides for informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to the functioning of democracy. It also used as a tool to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the citizens.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 passed with an objective to provide for setting up a system to provide information to citizens. The Right to Information Bill, 2005 received the President’s assent on June 15, 2005 and came into force on October 12, 2005. It replaced the previously enacted Freedom of Information Act, 2002. This act has a widest reach and covers Union, State as well as local government and also the recipients of government grants. It also serves serves the purpose of Article 19 of the Constitution of India which gives citizens Right to receive and impart information. The objective of this act is to bring transparency, predictability, accountability and participation which formulates a good factor for Governance. In order to promote transparency and accountability in the works of every public authority, Central information Commission and State Information Commission are constituted under the Act. It covers all aspects related to inspection of work, document, record and it disperses certified copy and information in form of disks, floppies, Tapes, video cassettes to the applicant.

Authorities Under the Act

Public Authorities designate some of their officers as Public Information Officers. The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities. These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request. Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority. Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission. These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners.

PROCEDURE FOR FILING RTI

The Procedure is very easy and citizen friendly. RTI applications can be filed both online and offline. The online services are only available for the departments under Central Government and related ministries including PMO, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the secretariat of the Vice President and President and Secretariat of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

ONLINE PROCEDURE

1. For filing the RTI application, applicant must figure out the department from where he wants the information.
2. Then open the RTI website: https://rtionline.gov.in and register himself. After registration, submit the request for the RTI to start the application process.
3. The applicant must agree to the terms and condition related to the RTI and acknowledge it by digitally signing the form. Once he acknowledge the guidelines provided, he can start his application by clicking on the next page.
4. Then applicant will choose the department where he want to cater his request and fill the required personal details. He needs to provide the subject line for his RTI application which must brief the subject of his RTI application which has a limit of 3000 words. It is advised to use simple and clear language which is easy to understand and describes your issue in a simple manner.
5. After this applicant needs to submit all the supporting documents to proceed to the payment page.
6. Now the applicant needs to pay by clicking on the ‘make payment’ option, where fee of INR 10 can be paid through internet banking, debit card or credit card.
7. After submitting the application, the applicant will get an email and sms alert providing his registration ID which an applicant can use for the future queries.
The application filed through online portal directly reaches to the nodal officer of concerned ministry/department, who transmits the application to the concerned CPIO.

OFFLINE PROCEDURE

1. Application can be handwritten or typed in the official language of the area or Hindi or English. There is no specific format for RTI application meant for the central government public authorities but some states have a proforma which needs to be followed while writing / typing an RTI application.
2. Application must be addressed to the Central or State Public Information Officer (PIO) or Assistant PIO. It must contain the subject line as “Seeking information under RTI Act, 2005”. Applicant should also write the name and full address of the office from which he is seeking information.
3. Write your questions or information in detail (which is sought). For example, give details of the year, period etc. from which the information is required. You don’t need to provide reason for filing RTI.
4. Provide your full details like name, address, contact details, email address (if any) and sign the application along with date.
5. Applicant needs to Pay Rs. 10 as filing fee. It can be paid in any form i.e. cash, money order, bank draft or court fee stamp. Applicants below the poverty line need not make the payment but have to attach a copy of the BPL certificate along with the application.
6. Keep a photocopy of your application before sending it to the authority for the record.
7. Send your application by post or submit it personally to the department concerned. Get an acknowledgement for future reference.

STEPS TO FILE FOR FIRST APPEAL

If the RTI application filed by the applicant is rejected, or PIO’s decision under Section 11(3) or receiving improper information from the PIO, demand of inappropriate fee from the PIO, etc. an appeal can be filed to the appellate authority against decision of the PIO. First appeal has to be filed within 30 days from the date of receipt of decision of PIO to respective First Appellate Authority (“FAA”).
Details of the designated FAA could be found on the decision letter of the Public Information Officer (PIO), official website of RTI or from the office of the PIO. The appeal could also be furnished to the Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO), which would be forwarded to the FAA. It can be submit online and offline as well.

APPLICATION FEE AND FORMAT

The application fee and format differ from state to state. The applicant can find the respective information in the official website of RTI.
Things to be included in the Appeal-
1. Particulars of the RTI application filed to the PIO.
2. The information requested in the application.
3. The decision or ignorance of the PIO.
4. Information provided by the PIO.
5. Information not provided by the PIO.
6. Reasons for Grievance and Other documents justifying the grounds of appeal (if necessary).

ONLINE APPEAL PROCEDURE AT GLANCE

1. First appeal application can be submitted by clicking on ‘submit first appeal’ option. This page will provide/ display the guidelines for use of RTI portal. Thereafter, citizen has to agree to the terms and conditions displayed on the portal.
2. The page for online RTI appeal application will be displayed. Provide your registration number, email ID and security code required in the form.
3. Now, click on the Submit button, RTI first appeal form will display. The applicant has to select the ‘ground for appeal’ required in the appeal application form.
4. As per the provisions of RTI Act, no fees has to be paid for first appeal.
5. After submission of the application, a unique registration would be sent to the applicant which can used for future references.

About RIGHT TO INFORMATION AMENDMENT, 2019

The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by Parliament despite the opposition protest faced in Rajya Sabha. The act seeks to amend Section 13, 16 and 27 of the RTI Act that empowers the Central Government to determine the terms, salaries and other terms and conditions of service of Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
Key Highlights of Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019:
• Term of Information Commissioners: Under the act, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) are appointed at Central and State level to implement the provisions of the Act.
Earlier CIC and IC had tenure of five years but the amendment removes this provision and provided that the term of office for CIC and ICs will be notified by the Central Government.
• Salary Determination: The original act states that the salaries provided to CIC and ICs will be equivalent to Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
The amendment act amended this provision and states that salaries and allowances of CIC and ICs will determined by the central government.
• Salary Deductions: The amendment act removes the provision of pension and other retirement benefits. The provision states that if at the time of appointment of CIC and ICs they are receiving any pension or other retirement benefits for any previous government services then their salaries will be reduced to an amount equal to the pension.
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EFFECTS OF THE AMENDMENT

This amendment is much more a political step rather than a legislative step. The act is a complete dilution of the structural mechanism around the statute. The amendment undermines the authority of Central and State Information Commissioners. This amendment was made to put control on the independent body where the government is threatened by disclosures of every government institution. This amendment gives the power to the government to hire and fire independent information commissioners on their discretion. As interference in the powers of an independent body dilutes the concept of democracy in the country.

Note- This Article contains two parts one is informative and other is opinion based. This is the personal opinion of the author in case of any query; you can reply to it or reach author through the mail provided at the contact section of the website.

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