The RTI Legislation was a step in the right direction and was welcomed with great zeal and hope by the country.
It was termed the beacon of democratic transparency and also a key aspect of the vibrant exercise of Article 19 by the common man. Only a properly and well informed citizenry can take right and rational decisions for themselves and the country.
It did take long to come about but it finally did in 2005 thanks to the struggle of the spirited social activists.
Let's take a look at the Act as well as how to file it alongwith some helpful tips and guidance.
RTI Rules 2012:
Hierarchy of the RTI System:
Guidance on filing RTIs and Appeals:
1) To file RTI online (Only For Central Govt Organisations): https://rtionline.gov.in/guidelines.php?request
2) To File RTI First Appeal online Only For Central Govt Organisations): https://rtionline.gov.in/guidelines.php?appeal
3) For Second Appeals Online: CIC - http://www.cic.gov.in/
4) For RTIs,First Appeal Second Appeals Online & By Post For State Bodies: Please visit the respective State Information Commission Websites.
Formats for submitting RTIs, First Appeals and Second Appeals via Post:
1) RTI Format in English: http://nchm.nic.in/nchmct_adm/writereaddata/upload/rtiacts/Chapter-20%20Application%20Form.pdf
RTI Format in Hindi: http://www.janshikayat.com/rti-application-sample-in-hindi/
2) First Appeal Format in English: http://www.portal.gsi.gov.in/gsiDoc/pub/RTI_Specimen%20_First_Appeal_Annexure%209.I.pdf
First Appeal Format in Hindi:http://www.brandbharat.com/english/bihar/RTI_7.html
3) Second Appeal Format in English: http://righttoinformation.wiki/_media/rules/second_appeal_under_rti2005_1209742433.pdf
2) For First Appeals: http://www.thelogicalbuyer.com/blog/file-first-appeal-rti-act-2005/
3) For Second Appeals: http://rtiact2005.com/rti-second-appeal-format-in-english/
Further up the Hierarchial Ladder of the RTI System, at the top most is the High Court & Supreme Court.
Now coming to the practical implementation of this Legislation,unfortunately,we are still to come even close to the promises that were made to us via this tool.
Let's review it.
The good side:
1) Many scams have been unearthed thanks to RTI that has led to a change in governments too
2) Many issues of the common man have been brought forward and answered when nothing else worked for them.
3) It has opened up an avenue for citizen audit, participation in governance and administration and hold them accountable and responsible for any kind deficiencies in their duties.
The other side:
1) Immense pendency of RTI Appeals in SICs and CICs as well as PIO and CPIOs offices.
2) One almost always ends up in a First or Second Appeal (it takes almost a year for the hearing to take place in IC)
3) Bureaucratic resistance to transparency and inefficient information collection and management system within govt. agencies
4) Untrained PIOs and other staff
5) Understaffed and lack of infrastructure to carry out this tremendous responsibility
6) SICs do not have authority to enforce and implement recommendations or penalties, it is up to the state govts which rarely do that and hence the applicant has to approach the Courts which leads to burden on the already overburdened Judiciary (HC & SC).
7) The State govt have the financial and administrative authority to implement reforms and revolutionize technology for the effective implementation of RTI but they have not yet shown any interest.
8) Misuse of RTI by vested interests
9) Sending back of RTI second appeals to be filled again to remove minor deficiencies by SIC and CIC instead of just providing platform to edit already filed second appeal.
10) Lack of knowledge and information among the public about RTI and its uses,etc.
11) Delays in appointments of CIC and other important officials at times
12) Public records Act not yet implemented that would further facilitate RTI
13) Lack of a strong Whistleblower Act
14) Sometimes when the PIO and other officials refuse to give information or cite vague and indigestible reasons for not declaring information then the citizen does not know where to approach further due to lack of knowledge of rights and hierarchy.
15) Two sections often misused by bureaucrats to avoid disclosing information are Section 6(3) and Section 7(9)
16) Political parties,judiciary and many other public bodies have been exempted from it
17) No Private organisation comes under it which gives an open path to the corrupt to channelize their fraudulent acts through these uncovered areas
Even though the RTI Act is monumental and extremely critical for the spirit of democratic transparency,it is still facing immense hurdles to bring out it's true spirit but the fight is still on and anything radical does take time. It is the responsibility of both the government and the governed to make it a success.
So keep up the spirit and make it better and make it work by changing the political will and bureaucratic apathy via constant efforts like relevant RTI filings and Judicial proceedings against erring officials, public movement for change in the Act and social networking revolutions to build pressure for its reform that would force the politicians to become responsible and duty bound towards their masters which is the common man and enforce necessary amendments that is true to the spirit of this Act for the good of the common man.