The growing popularity of the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, has emboldened many Indian citizens into seeking information from the government. This was an unthinkable task earlier and few attempted it. However many applicants get disappointed when their applications get rejected based and the information officer provides some vaguer reason which the many finds difficult to understand. An improperly written and submitted application is one such reason. To avoid this disappointment one should know how to prepare an RTI application and minimize the chances of rejection.Given below are some tips to help you prepare your Right To Information application properly and reduce the chances of rejection.
1. Learn the format which you must use to prepare your application. These will be different between central government offices and those belonging to states. Some states have a prescribed format for preparing an application which can be viewed on the government’s website. Or they may provide a form which can be used as reference. Any application that fails to adhere to this format or guidelines stands a chance of being summarily rejected.
2. Prepare a list of questions which you want to ask under an RTI application. These questions must be short and each must be specific to the point. Asking vague questions gives a chance to the PIO to reject your application.
3. If you plan to ask a number of questions covering different departments or subject areas, then prepare several individual applications with each limited to a particular subject or department. Never mix questions belonging to different areas or departments or you then give a chance to the PIO to reject your application.
4. Do not seek voluminous information. This again allows your application to be rejected. However in case the information you seek is voluminous, then ask that the answer be furnished in a CD/DVD. This may cost you only about Rs. 50 or the amount prescribed by the state. Do not ask for printed copies as then you may lose a large amount of money or the concerned office may refuse to furnish all or part of the information.
5. Don’t frame your questions with a “Why” as this will give a chance to the officer to reject your application under the conditions of the Right To Information Act. Instead ask for the causes of an administrative step taken or the reasons for the quasi-judicial decisions taken.
6. Use a blank white sheet of paper when writing your queries. You do not need to use stamp paper or a note sheet to submit your application. The questions can either be hand written neatly in a legible handwriting or better, it can be typed. An illegibly written application can be rejected or you may face delays in getting answers. If a word limit is prescribed by the state government(s) then stick to that word count. Applications to central government offices usually need not be restricted to a word count but it still makes sense to keep your questions short.
7. Begin by mentioning your name, complete postal address, your telephone number and your email address, if you have one. Then you can mention the Public Information Officer (PIO) or the Assistant Public Information Officer to whom you are submitting the application. If you are unable to locate the respective information officer, you can address the application to the “Public Information Officer C/o Head of Department of the respective department. Do not mention the name of the PIO even if you know him/her personally.
Next mention the list of questions you want to ask in points. Close by mentioning the particulars of the application fees you have paid. This can include the details of postal order or DD or cash receipt or a banker’s cheque or any other document that you have as a receipt. You may also attach a photocopy of the receipt. This information must clearly contain the date of payment. If as mandated under the state’s law you credited the fees to a designated bank account then the bank branch where the payment was made etc.
8. Close the application by mentioning your name and sign below your name. Please do not mention your post.
9. Do not write the reason for requesting the information. This is not mandatory and need not be mentioned in the application.
Make sure to take two photocopies of your application. One copy can be filed and the other can be used to get an acknowledgement from the office of the PIO. This can be filed separately. You must also maintain the copies of the all the documents you attach in the correct chronological order along with the copies.
As an Indian citizen you have every right to seek information from the government. Be wise and use this opportunity to your advantage. Do not let this go waste due to carelessness.