Four golden rules for writing effective RTI Applications

 

*Four golden rules for writing effective RTI Applications*

Dear fellow Activists,

We often sit down to draft an RTI application in an angry and unrealistic mood. When we write RTI applications, our focus should be on getting information. Instead, we are thinking about stopping some wrongdoings, getting some officials and corrupt contractors penalized, making the authorities “answerable” for negligence etc, etc. At such times, we fail to think clearly about the items of information that we need.

Right to Information Act 2005 is a law, and effectiveness in legal work depends on using the law without anger, resentment and wishful thinking.

While asking for information, the 4 golden rules are:

1. Point to various specific documents. Your application should look like a shopping-list of documents.

2. Name documents using words from Sec 2(f) and Sec 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act – reports, logbooks, emails, advices, rules, regulations, manuals etc. Only after exhausting these should you use other similar names e.g. quality audit reports, correspondence etc. In case this information is denied, the similarity of wordings will help you to convince appellate authorities that your requested information is “records” and “information” that must be mandatorily given.

3. Don’t ask questions, don’t demand explanations, and don’t make allegations.
Don’t make your application sound like a letter of complaint or a letter-to-the-editor. Don’t preface it with a covering letter or an introductory paragraph. RTI applications should be emotionless and bland.

4. Avoid vague expressions and requests such as

  • What is the status of my complaint?
    What further action has been taken on my complaint/letter?
    Give me action-taken report.
    Words like “status” and “action” are open to interpretation, and usually fail to point towards any particular document; they can mean different things to different persons like applicant, PIO, APIO and appellate authorities. In most cases, there is no such document called “action-taken report” in existence, and therefore, the PIO cannot be rightly asked under RTI to generate such a document in reply to your application; PIO can only be asked to give you copy of a document that exists. The right way is to ask for signed and stamped copy of all correspondence till date in the matter of your complaint, including memos, emails, covering letters for forwarding your complaint etc. Ask for copy of logbook or any other book where details of your complaint are entered, marked to specific officers for their investigation and action. Ask for a copy of all their remarks, feedback, reports etc. If the case on your complaint is closed, ask for the closing remarks of the officer concerned.
  • Give particulars of the project to build XYZ.
    What “particulars” do you want? Engineering drawings? Budgets? Financial projections? Feasibility reports? Consultants’ studies? This is not clear. Don’t leave it to the PIO to decide what documents to include and what to leave out. Be specific and name the documents that you want copied. Make it difficult for the PIO to loosely interpret your request.

Prepared by
Shri Sailesh Gandhi
Central Information Commissioner

(Circulated in the interest of the public giving them tips to frame good questions while submitting RTI Applications to get the information)

 

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RTI made easy

Soon, anyone would be able to file an RTI application over the phone, with help and guidance from a call centre as well as through a website

While the government is consistently blamed for diluting the RTI (Right to Information) Act in several ways besides making illogical amendments at the state level, it is gearing up to make filing of RTI applications by just making a phone call. Citizens will not have to take the pains of either writing a RTI application or taking the pains to post it or physically deliver it. Proposals for setting up such privately run call centres have been advertised by the “Department of Personnel & Training” (DoPT) with the last date of submission being 10 July 2012.

The project has been named “RTI Call Centre and Portal Project” under which 2,000 centres are proposed all over the country.

The DoPT, which has put up details of the project on its website, cites two facilities under it.  One is the computerised call centre which would facilitate the citizen to file his/her RTI over the phone; file first appeal applications over the phone and even track the status of their first appeal. This facility is termed as “Computer Telephony Integration enabled Call Centre Setup”. Second, is the development of a “web portal” which would provide information about the RTI Act as well as facilitate filing of RTI and first appeal applications.

Click Here for the full details

RTI Application formats

Three activists – Ashish Mhatre, Krishnaraj Rao and G R Vora – have put up an online bank of successful applications to help people use the RTI Act effectively. Just browse through the list available, click on the one of your need, and find links to successful applications to be used as a format for your own. It is very simple to use and will go a long way in making your own applications successful. Click Here for the links

The list includes the following titles :

  • Employment
  • Railways
  • Area Development Funds of Corpo-MLAs-MPs
  • Waste Management and Cleanliness
  • Blank RTI Application and Appeal Forms – Annexure A, B and C
  • BMC Accounts – Finance
  • LMC – Ludhiana Mun. Corporation
  • MTDC – Maharashtra Tourism Development. Corporation
  • Village Panchayat
  • MHADA
  • BMC – Bom Mun Corporation – Hoardings
  • PWD (Public Works Dept) Maha Govt
  • Passport
  • Home Ministry ( Maha. Govt.)
  • BMC – Roads
  • Finance Ministry (Maha Govt.)
  • GAD (Maha. Govt.)
  • Maha. Govt. ( Legislatures )
  • Education
  • Bombay High Court
  • Maha Govt – Co-op and Textiles Ministry
  • Dairy Commissioner (Maha. Govt)
  • Mumbai Collector Office
  • BARC – Bhabha Atomic Research Centre – Mumbai
  • CM’s Relief Fund
  • Bldg Plans Permissions etc
  • BMC Circulars – List of PIOs and APIOs – 3.9.2010 onwards.pdf

    Some more format links are listed for your perusal – Click Here

Right to Information Resources

The Right to Information Act 2005 provides effective access to information for citizens of India, which is under the control of the public authorities. It promotes transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. It extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to ensure greater and more effective access to information, it was decided to repeal the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and enact another law for providing an effective framework. To achieve this object, the Right to Information Bill was introduced in the Parliament and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 11th May, 2005 and by the Rajya Sabha on 12th May, 2005 and it received the assent on 15th June, 2005. It came on the Statute Book as THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005 (22 of 2005)

Click Here for more information including RTI stories and resources

Click Here for the official Government RTI website