Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 5: Your Rights As A Citizen

Quite often, people feel guilty and try to explain why they want a particular piece of information. Some people write a covering letter for their RTI application explaining their grievances and how getting the information will help them. Others explain that they are collecting information for their doctoral thesis or newspaper article. Still others try to impress the PIO by writing that they are relatives of a Member of Parliament, or the president of some association or trade union.

All that is unnecessary.

Section 6(2) clearly says: An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason or any other personal details except those that necessary for contacting him.

So, whether you are drafting your RTI application, speaking to a PIO or any Appellate Authority, remember: you need not disclose the purpose for which you want the information, or any additional details about yourself. Your name and contract details is all that anybody needs to know!

  
What are your rights?

The duties of the Public Information Officer are your rights under RTI. So, understand the duties of the PIO, which are set out in Sections 5, 6 and 7 of RTI Act 2005.

 Section 5:

(3) Every PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and render reasonable assistance.

(4) PIO may seek the assistance of any other officer for the proper discharge of his or her duties.

(5) Any officer, whose assistance has been sought under sub-section (4), shall render all assistance to the PIO seeking his assistance and for the purposes of any contravention of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a Public Information Officer.

 Section 6:
  1. A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, accompanying fee prescribed, to —
  1. the PIO of the concerned public authority;
  2. the Assistant Public Information Officer
specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:

Where such request cannot be made in writing PIO shall render all reasonable assistance to reduce the same in writing.

  1. An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason or any other personal details except those that necessary for contacting him.

  1. Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, —
  1. which is held by another public authority; or
  2. the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority,
the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:

The transfer of an application shall be in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

 Section 7:
  1. Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 6, the PIO shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9:
Where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours.

  1. If the PIO fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified under sub-section (1), the PIO shall be deemed to have refused the request.

  1. Where a decision is taken to provide the information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, the PIO shall send an intimation to the person making the request, giving —
  1. the details of further fees, together with the calculations made, requesting him to deposit that fees, and the period between the despatch of the said intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the purpose of calculating the period of thirty days;
  2. information concerning his or her right with respect to review the decision as to the amount of fees charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the appellate authority, time limit, process and any other forms.

  1. Where the person is sensorily disabled, the PIO shall provide assistance to enable access to the information, including assistance appropriate for inspection.

  1. Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall pay such fee as may be prescribed:
The fee prescribed shall be reasonable.

  1. The person-making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits.

  1. Before taking any decision under sub-section (1), the PIO shall take into consideration the representation made by a third party under section 11.

  1. Where a request has been rejected under sub-section (1), the PIO shall communicate to the person making the request, —
  1. the reasons for such rejection;
  2. the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
  3. the particulars of the first appellate authority.

  1. Information shall be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record.

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