What are some of the shocking, weirdest, silliest RTI requests made in India?
As Abraham Lincoln said “Government is of the people, by the people, for the people”
The government is our servant and we have no duty to explain why we seek information from them. The government holds all the information in our behalf, in trust. Like a banker can’t ask you why you want to see your bank account statement, similarly the government can’t deny if you ask them how they are governing our country. With the mechanism of RTI we can actually participate in the working of the government.
RTI or Right To Information is an act of Indian parliament that empowers the common people to seek information from the government. It empowers the Indian citizens to inspect the government work, take notes and get certified photocopies to know the status of work.
It’s been ten years since the RTI Act came into existence to empower people and bring transparency to the system. However, people have been using it in rather unconventional ways. The queries that the government receives often fall in the range from being funny to outright absurd.
In technical terms, these queries fall under the frivolous or vexatious category which means they denote an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant. In the language of the internet, they were filed just to troll people.
Here are some of the funniest RTI applications filed by people in India:
1. RTI for Indian nuclear launch code:
A guy has asked in his Right To Information query undoubtedly is too much of funny. The Twitterati could not believe their eyes when Vivek Kumar, deputy secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and an Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officer, shared on the micro blogging site that a person has filed a RTI seeking the launch codes to India’s nuclear arsenal. Could you believe it?
Does the person not know that nobody but the serving prime minister of India has access to the launch codes of nuclear weapons? Please do not take it as a joke, for statutory fee of Rs 10 had also been deposited in this regard. The application was obviously rejected. It had to be. It is a funny story of a RTI activist whose identity remained hidden.
2. RTI regarding Lord Venkateshwara:
Yes you read that right. In 2014, Mr Narashimha Murthy, a social activist, allegedly filed a RTI to the TTD (Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam) trust questioning them whether Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Kubera had been cleared or how much was still left. His basis of filing the RTI was his allegation that the trust had hoodwinked the public by weaving a story about the Lord owing a debt.
A funny RTI query has been made by a Bengalurean to Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam (TTD), asking for information about the money Lord Venkateshwara has borrowed from Kubera at the time of his marriage with Padmavathi and how much he has returned. TTD is yet to give a reply. The RTI applicant alleges that TTD is hoodwinking people by stating that the lord is still paying back interest for the principal amount he had borrowed from Kubera from the proceeds of the famous Tirupati 'Hundi'.
Narasimha Murty, a Bangalore-based RTI activist, visited Tirupati and saw a board which spoke about the money borrowed from Kubera, the lord of wealth, by Lord Srinivasa and the need for the latter to pay interest on the loan among other things. "After I saw the board, I was taken aback at the way people are being fooled by this mythology. They all use god's name to make gains, which made me file this RTI query," Narasimha Murty said.
Murty has addressed this RTI to the accounts officer and to the public information officer. "TTD says that the lord is still paying interest to Kubera and it is the money given by devotees that only can help in this mission. As a citizen of this country, I have all rights to know the accounts of the TTD. But even after much time, TTD has not given me any details about the accounts. So, I have gone before the Andhra Pradesh information commissioner. Even after repeating request letters, TTD is not answering the questions I have posed," Murty said.
According to mythology, Lord Venkateshwara who was believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, was named as Srinivasa. There was a king called Akasha Raja who was ruling the state that time. Many a time, Srinivasa quarrelled with his divine consort Lakshmi and on one occasion came to Tirupati to do penance in an anthill. He was doing penance all day and no one knew about this. Every day, one cow used to come to that place and give milk to Srinivasa. Once the cow was back home, it stopped giving milk. Confused by this, shepherds who were looking after this cow followed it, and found it looking after Srinivasa who was inside the anthill. They went to hit the cow with a stick but to safeguard the animal, Srinivasa came out and took the blows on his head.
While the attackers left the place, a bleeding Srinivasa was rescued by a woman called Okkala Devi who took him to her place and brought him up as her son. He started staying with her and one day he saw Padmavathi, the Princes of the region. Srinivasa fell in love with her which she also reciprocated. Okkala Devi then approached the king Akasha Raja requesting him to allow the two to marry. The king asked Okkala Devi about her status and about money she had to conduct the wedding. It is at this juncture that Srinivasa was forced to go to Kubera, the lord of wealth and riches, for a loan. After processing the loan, Srinivasa got to marry Padmavathi. Mythology says that from that day till date, Srinivasa is repaying Kubera his loan.
"Based on this story, the Devastanam still says that Lord Balaji is paying the interest and it is pressuring devotees to give more and more money. Emotional devotees believe all this and part with crores of rupees. I have heard of rich people like the Amabanis, Vijay Mallya and several other politicians donating huge sums to Lord Balaji. Is there an account for all this," Murty questions and says he will fight till he gets answers for his questions.
Narasimha Murty is an RTI activist who has been fighting regarding the property and the gold which came out after opening of the doors at Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala, as well as the death of an IAS officer who was looking after the temple. Post-this battle, Karnataka Golf Association was also declared a public authority based on his application.
Well, the story in the News article has few discrepancies; nevertheless the gist is the same. This must have possibly been a creative petition to let the people think twice before donating at the temple.
3. RTI Query: “Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before he came into politics, worked in any Ramlila Troop? If yes, what role he played?”
The PMO replied: “Information sought is not part of record.”
4. RTI Query on of another applicant wanted to know “how many and which type of cylinder” were “used in (the PM’s) kitchen” in October 2014 and May 2015. The applicant also sought “copies of bills of cylinders” and “copies of bills and spices” bought in May 2015.
The PMO replied: “The kitchen expense of the Prime Minister is personal in nature and not incurred on government account.”
This exchange is just one example of the nature of queries relating to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that have been raised by applicants and responded to by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
The below are some of the RTI Queries:
Q: Records and documents which show that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is the Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister.
A: “There is no proposal to change the official designation of PM.”
Q: Has the Prime Minister read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister supposed to read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister assumed to have read Indian constitution? Has anyone in the PMO till date told the Prime Minister what his duties are towards India?
A: “Information sought does not fall under the definition of information.”
Q: Who helps the Prime Minister in sending tweets in regional and foreign languages? Names of individual (s) for each regional language.
A: “Information sought is not maintained on record.” (Another reply says that the “Prime Minister himself is managing his personal social media accounts.”)
Q: Number of sick or casual or health leave availed by the Prime Minister in the last 10 years.
A: “No leave has been availed by the present Prime Minister since taking over the office.” (Replying to a related query on whether Prime Minister Modi was on leave during the Bihar election campaign last year, the PMO responded: “Tours on election campaign are not official.”)
Q: Percentage of marks Modi secured while graduating in 1977 from Delhi University.
A: “Does not form part of records.”
Q: Can one get the mobile number of the PM under RTI?
A: “The PMO has not given any mobile phone to Prime Minister.”
Q: Legal status of announcements made by the Prime Minister.
A: “Once the announcement is made, the ministries concerned are entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the announcements and monitoring their implementation.”
Q: Does the PMO communicate; send letters, etc., in the official language Hindi?
A: “Letters in Hindi received from Union Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, etc., are replied to in Hindi… Hindi letters from public are also replied in Hindi.”
Q: Roza iftar parties Prime Minister Modi attended in 2014 and 2015.
And finally this:
Q: Has the Principal Secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, ever taken his colleagues in the PMO on a picnic? If yes, who all went, how much money was spent, were family members also invited on such excursion, and what was the food menu? Was the food ordered from an external caterer? Was the venue fixed by general consensus or was it decided solely by Misra?
A: “No picnic/excursion was ever organised by Nripendra Misra.”
5. A RTI Application also asked Who officially declared Gandhi as Father of the Nation (since we always read it in our text books)
The 10 year old girl had filed an RTI query seeking information on Gandhi Ji’s title of ‘father of nation’
In a written reply, the government said that Mahatma Gandhi cannot be accorded the 'Father of the Nation' title by government as the Constitution does not permit any titles except educational and military ones.
While giving reference to the Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the MHA had said that it does not permit any titles except education and military ones.
The MHA had transferred her appeal to the National Archives of India.
The Central Information Commissioner Basant Seth then had stated, "There is no order/document on record by which Gandhiji was given the title of "Rastrapita".
Ans: No official declaration done till now.
6. Who declared Gandhi Jayanti, Republic day, Independence Day as national holidays?
Ans: Such orders were never issued.
Bangalore, Aug 14: The reply to an RTI query has come as a shock to all those Indians who believed that Aug 15, Jan 26 and Oct 2 are national holidays. Apparently, these three dates were never notified by the government. It was the persistent efforts of one Aishwarya Parashar that revealed this amazing fact. Earlier this year in April, the 10-year-old had asked the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for a copy of the particular government order (GO) that specified the national holidays. The PMO passed on her query to the Ministry of Home, which at first claimed that the matter does not pertain to it. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) should provide the answer, the Home Ministry averred. Finally, the latter clarified on May 17 that it could not find any GO that notified Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as national holidays. Aishwarya was bemused by the reply because she has been taught in school that Jan 26, Aug 15 and Oct 2 are national holidays. When she filed an appeal to find out the truth, the appellate authority not only confirmed that the Home Ministry's statement was correct but also requested the National Archives to provide the 10-year-old a copy of the GO if any exists. A determined Aishwarya has since shot off letters to the President and the Prime Minister, demanding the GO. Now the onus is on both Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh to satisfy her curiosity.
7. A RTI Applicate asked what is the Speed of internet at the PMO? Is his internet faster than ours?
Brave Right to Information warriors have exposed how fast Modi’s wifi is! The average Indian gets 2Mbps, and Modi gets 34Mbps. (If you think that’s fast, the ‘Startup Village’ in Kochi has 1Gbps connectivity - 30 times as fast as the PM’s office!) The RTI also found that the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) uses Windows 7/Windows 8, and there's no money spent on running the @PMOIndia Twitter handle. While the RTI was brought in for transparency, some geniuses are turning it into a joke. Sample these RTI petitions. Yes these are real.
Ans: 34 Mbps.
8. Did you know that Hockey is not our National game?
This was revealed in an RTI filed by a class VII student, Aishwarya Parashar who sought information on a government order pertaining to India’s national game. Quite surprisingly, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in its response stated that ministry has not declared any sport as its national game.
Same as ENERGY, STUPIDITY can be neither created nor be destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another. All these does not ends here only as many have asked:
• Can we have the election symbols with the rainbow filter? (On Voting Machines)
A political activist asked Election Commission of India why elections symbol used in electronic voting machines are black and white and not colourful.
• An RTI doesn't really have an age limit - legally, even a six year old can file one. And 9 year old Pranav filed an RTI that forced the Delhi police to register his stolen bike. He even asked for a Rs. 2500 compensation, and demanded action against the assistant sub-inspector!
The police were given a challenge by a 9-year-old boy named Pranav who used an RTI to force the police officers to file an FIR for his lost bicycle. The police had initially refused the to file the FIR for a trivial offense.
I have a feeling that this kid is going to grow up and do some great stuff.
• Do you know what underpants should you wear before the Prime Minister?
It is one of the most absurd queries received by RTI act provoked by a ridiculous reason. A “troubled” citizen filed a petition asking what undergarments can be worn before the Prime Minister. The question was asked directly to the PMO’s Office asking for the exact “specification of undergarments.” Why? Because previously he had been arrested for stripping down to his briefs scribbled with anti-government slogans in a government convention addressed by the PM.
I am so impressed by this guy’s guts.
• RTI vs. RTI!
In 2009, a Pune RTI activist revealed how local politicians were using the RTI to spy on him, and try to stop him before he revealed their illegal activities!
• Um, just for research purposes.
An RTI applicant literally asked where exam papers for the Aligarh Muslim University were printed, and where they were checked.
• Some people can confuse RTI with Shaadi.com
A man in his late forties from Kutch Gujarat filed a request under the RTI Act demanding information on the eligible females in the government department for marriage. The request was made to the Tamil Nadu state information commission. In his application, he also stated the fact that an eligible bachelor from any government department would do for him. He just really wanted to get married to a government employee.
• Kya Ache Din Aa Gaye Hain?
Someone literally asked the Prime Minister's office if "achhe din" are here. We can imagine the response was “Work in progress”
• Time is money, but how much money exactly?
Time is money, but how much money is it according to Indian scriptures? An RTI asked the Punjab University this question.
• Saar, how much is cost of 1 wife @ MRP?
The same Punjab University RTI also asked how much a pretty and religious bride would cost, according to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata!
• How religious in the governor ?
A resident of Hyderabad sought details from Andhra Pradesh governor on how many times does he visit temples in a day and also copy of the dinner menu hosted at his official residence.
• How much ‘paan’ do MCD officials really chew ?
Blood red stains might be compulsory artwork at every sarkari office, but this Delhi resident had had enough! He filed an application asking how much 'paan' and tobacco an MCD official consumes on average in a day, and even asked about the paan ingredients!
• Where'd I go wrong?
A wannabe Delhi University (DU) lecturer who didn't get the university job filed an RTI asking DU where his answers weren't as good as other people who applied.
• RTI = student discount?
A duplicate Delhi University marksheet costs Rs. 500.
An RTI costs Rs. 10. Which is why Delhi students thought they'd get a duplicate marksheet for Rs. 10. Nah, it doesn't work like that.
• A disgruntled applicant wanted to know if Arvind Kejriwal’s reads the comments on his social media channels. In his application, he asked that when Arvind Kejriwal posts asks “silly and stupid questions” on Facebook and twitter, does he check the comments he receives on such posts. This information being personal in nature, can’t be answered under RTI. Even then, it doesn’t stop people from trying their luck!
• A Delhi University student, filed an RTI against the girl he fell in love with. After few months of dating, he found out that she was married! He wanted to know what he can do to complain against her and get her punished for the mental agony she had caused.
• This is around the time our country directed a lot of anger towards Fawad Khan. We had questions coming in asking if Fawad Khan was allowed to legally work and stay in India for his movie “Ae dil hai mushkil”.
• An emotional applicant had asked whether astrologists and priests are authorized to declare someone a “manglik”. If someone has “mangal dosh” and their spouse dies, is there any reason to believe that the “manglik” person is to be blamed? Quite a few RTI cases demand information from religious bodies.
• Private companies do not fall under RTI, which is a problem for many people. We received a query demanding call recording of a TataSky customer support call. Unfortunately, private companies are not required to answer RTI questions.
• RTI Registration number : MHOME/R/2016/50729: Applicant : Ajay Kumar
I am concerned about the readiness of our government in the event of an invasion by Aliens Zombies and Extradimensional beings .
1. What are our chances against them?
2. What means does the ministry of Home affair have at its disposal to defeat them?
3. Can we do it without Will Smith?
The government promptly replied that information that is available can be shared under RTI . Since no info about hypothetical situations is available, it cannot be given. This has to be the most polite reply given under the RTI act!
• The applicant, a resident of Ahmedabad, had sought information about Mahatma Gandhi, some of the former Presidents of India and other Ministers asking for their correct date and time of birth, their blood group and above all their IQ.
• How many bullock cart tracks are in Delhi? How many trees in the capital are green and how many are dead? How many cups of tea are consumed by the police personnel?
• Where did the laddoos go ?
A UP girl sent the erstwhile President George Bush some laddoos for 'Raksha bandhan'. Either he ate them and forgot about them, or his Secret Service did. Either way, she didn’t get a thank you mail. Our brave girl then approached the National Human Rights Commission to take action!
A UP girl asked NHRC on why 'ladoos' sent by her to US President George W. Bush on 'Rakshabandhan' never reached him and requested the commission to take appropriate action.
• In January 2010, a 47-year-old man from Kutch, Gujarat, requested the Tamil Nadu state information commission to provide him information on life partner for marriage from any govt department.
• How much maggie was wasted during its ban?
• Please send sarkari wife!
A 47-year-old man asked the Tamil Nadu state information commission to let him know about a suitable life partner working at any government department.
• Who made you Bapu?
A class VI girl asked if MK Gandhi ever got an actual ‘Father of the Nation’ title. What was even more awesome was that this was in 2012, when the Congress party was in power. The question went to the PMO, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and then to the National Archives of India– no one had an answer.
• Perhaps this is who people on Twitter refer to as ‘chaddi warriors’!
An activist protested by stripping naked at a convention where former PM Manmohan Singh was speaking, and then filed an RTI asking the PMO if they needed to approve his brand of underwear!
• Someone asked about how much tea is used in Indian Army on daily bases.
• Haryana Police: Wives of Haryana Police officers filled a series of RTIs, asking for the information related to the salary of their husbands and what are there duty timings.
• RTI revealed how the President Pratibha Patil tried to construct a retirement home out of govt. funds much in excess of her entitlement. It also revealed the hundreds of crores spent on her foreign travel which had little impact on the future of India.
• Hindi, not a national language: Court
Gujarat High Court has observed that though majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.
The observation was made by division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Suresh Kachhadia.
Mr. Kachhadia had filed the PIL last year seeking direction to Central and State government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to print details of goods like price, ingredients and date of manufacture in Hindi.
The court observed, “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.”
“No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” it further said.
It was contended by Mr. Kachhadia’s lawyer that Hindi was the national language and was understood by a large number of persons in the country.
The Counsel representing central government submitted that specific provision has been made under the Standard of Weight and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977 that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English.
The court said that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.”
However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language.
The court in its order said Part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English.
• Highest number of Indian prisoners are in Saudi Arabia:
As many as 6,569 Indian nationals are currently lodged in prisons of 67 foreign countries, including 254 in Pakistan reveals a RTI query. The Arab countries topped the list with Saudi Arabia (1691), Kuwait (1161) and UAE (1012), according to the information provided by the MEA on April 22 to lawyer and RTI activist DB Binu. Italy has 121 Indian prisoners. The list also showed that UK has 426, USA 155, China 157, Bangladesh 62, Afghanistan 28, Bahrain 18 and Nepal 377 Indian prisoners.
• IIM reveals admission criteria:
Despite an impressive percentile Vaishnavi Kasturi, a visually-impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes.
She then filed an RTI application to request the institution to disclose the admission process.
Though Vaishnavi did not get admission in any of the IIMs, her doubts over admission procedure were clarified.
In a response to the query, the Chairman said “CAT scores are just one-fifth of the criteria for admissions.
Forty per cent weight age is given for class X, XII and bachelor's scores.
Work experience is given weight age too but it’s mostly performance in the group discussion and interview that counts which is up to 35 per cent, plus 5 per cent weight age is there if you have done a chartered accountancy course.”
• The national anthem of India does not contain the word - "Sindh" - since 1950.
Prof. Shrikant Malushte, a retired professor, challenged the word "Sindh" in the national anthem of India on the following grounds:
"When Rabrindranath Tagore's poem was adapted by the Constituent Assembly in 1950 as the national anthem, the word 'Sindh' was replaced by 'Sindhu' considering the fact that the region was part of Pakistan partitioned from India. The newly replaced word Sindhu denotes the river that originated in Pakistan but flows through the Indian valleys," said 75-year-old Shreekanth Malushte.
However, despite the correction made by the Constituent Assembly, the government continued to prescribe the original poem written by Tagore, leading to a situation where the anthem was sung in two versions.
Prof. Shrikant then availed the RTI Act and obtained papers from the Ministry of Home Affarirs which confirmed that the correct version of the national anthem had the word 'Sindhu'. He then moved the Bombay High Court that agreed with his observations and said that 'Sindh' in national anthem is probably a mistake and directed the center to provide its point of view.
However, in 2005, the Supreme court had dismissed a similar case by mentioning that the authentic text contained "Sindh". Therefore, eventually the Bombay High court decided that 'Sindh will remain in the national anthem'
• You know there's money being flushed down the toilet - or the Ganga, when startups can build empires from bedrooms, and yet a single 'Clean Ganga' meeting costs over 40 lakh Rupees. That was the budget for a single Vigyan Bhawan meeting by the Modi government's high level team to clean the Ganga! This was revealed through by RTI application.
They've somehow managed to spend Rs 75,000 on "floral decorations"- and here's the other math:
Meetings and accommodation of guests: Rs 26.7 lakh
Officials' travel: Rs 8.8 lakh
Advertising the event: Rs 5.1 lakh.
Other arrangements: Rs 2.3 lakh
Actually cleaning the Ganga: JEERO!
• If the legal age of a Man to get sexually active is 18 years and the legal age for him to get married is 21... Then what are we actually suggesting he should do these 3 years?
• Now if the legal age for a Man to get married is 21 years and the legal age for him to start drinking is 25 years... then how do you suggest he survives the first 4 years of marriage???
• The most awkward RTI demanded copies of all RTIs filed in the country and their replies.