An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi, convener of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information by Rediff.com readers on the Right to Information Act.
The Right to Information Act 2005 is hailed as a revolution in India's evolution as a democracy. It empowers the ordinary citizen who has hither-to been armed with only his vote, with the tools of information that propel government decisions.
Thanks to the legislation, citizens can seek -- and get within 30 days - information on how the government arrived at decisions, be it about his ration card application or the money spent on lighting a bridge outside his home. Shailesh Gandhi, convenor of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information, answered questions put forth by rediff.com readers on the Right to Information Act.
Here's the transcript:
ff asked, Do you think RTI Act should be all pervasive?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Transparency and truth would help everyone.
tester asked, I have been cheated by a foreign bank and want to sue them legally...can any one of you guide me please
Shailesh Gandhi answers, This would not be covered under
RTI.tester asked, Hi, I will like to know if we can get the RTI act for foreign bank who operate in India or how is it possible
Shailesh Gandhi answers, We can get information on foreign banks to the extent that the RBI or any other regulator under the law can access.
pajama asked, Do you think the RTI act should encompass the judiciary?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The law covers the judiciary very clearly and it is not the matter of anybody's opinion.
desi asked, Hi Mr Gandhi, How do you think common man should benefit from RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The test of RTI will be how much the common man benefits. If the common man does not benefit, it will remain one more tool in the hands of the powerful. The popularity of RTI is its potential promise to really benefit the individual common citizen.
sanjay asked, Sir, can we give someone the copies of Cashbook, copies of Tenders without informing the Third Party.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Copies of cashbook of third party cannot be given. Tenders and quotations must be given since there can be no exemption clause under RTI, which would normally cover these.
pramod asked, Sir, Are the unaided, recognised public Schools under purview of RTI? IF yes, who is PIO in their case - is it Dte of education or Principal
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Unaided schools or colleges are not under the purview of RTI.
ASC asked, how to catch people and get their details who default paying government dues
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could ask for details of defaulters and the amounts of default. Simultaneously, you could ask about action taken against defaulters, which would achieve the desired objective better.
cxvczxv asked, how to get upsc cut off marks
Shailesh Gandhi answers, In my opinion, they should be available though there is some controversy about this. Going by the letter and spirit of the RTI, the UPSC cut-off marks should be available.
daya asked, Can we get All the accounts of the properties of MLA,MP and IAS and State administrative officers and their dependents by RTI. Can any action be taken to forfeit the ILLGOTTEN wealth ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The accounts properties of MLA,MP, IAS and state administrative officers are supposed to be submitted to the govt regularly and hence can certainly be accessed.
sp asked, Mr.Gandhi is there a website or from where we can learn more about RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am giving you two or three websites. there are others as well.
Mahesh asked, Can I get the copies of my Income Tax Returns from the IT Dept under the RTI Act. My petition was rejected U/s.8(1)(j)
Shailesh Gandhi answers, This should 100 per cent be available and the rejection is wrong. Please do file the appeal arguing that you cannot possibly invade your own
privacy.anandpankaj asked, Hi Sir, I have recently filed an application with a reputed public school in Delhi seeking certain information. My sense is that they will either not provide information in 30 days or may come back saying that they are not a public authority as defined in RTIA, 2005. What is the recourse for me?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the public school is substantially aided by the govt or controlled by govt, then they are obliged to give you information since they are a public authority. In spite of this if they do not, file a first appeal and subsequently if required a second appeal to the information commission.
cxvczxv asked, some state public service commissions have been ordered to disclose answer sheets are they obeying the orders by respective information commissions?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am not exactly sure about the current position, but I think some case has been filed in the courts on this.
anandpankaj asked, Sir you say that recognised unaided public schools are not covered but the CIC in a recent order against Sanskriti School, New Delhi termed them as public authority because they had accessed government funds/resources for infrastructure at the time of their inception. This order was passed by the IC, Mr Kejriwal and is a strong precedence.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, What you are describing means there is funding of the government.
deven asked, How many days govt officials take to provide information? and if he or she failed to reply what is the course of action
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The public information officer has to reply to you in 30 days. Failure to do this without reasonable cause can invite a personal penalty of Rs 250/day. In case you do not receive a reply in 30 days, please ensure that you file your first appeal to the first appellate authority within 60 days of your RTI application.
vijay asked, as an individual do I have the rti why a company is withdrawing a product from the market and to reintroduce it again with a different name ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, No
bharati asked, How to secure information on Compensation on land acquired by Municipal Corporation for Road widening without giving and accepting any claim (even not single paise)
Shailesh Gandhi answers, One method could be to get the record of the previous owner and then ask under RTI what compensation was paid for acquiring this land.
pavithran asked, hello sir good evening. is it possible to get details regarding departmental promotional committee proceedings as well as the proceedings relating to appointments which are closed door sessions and said as confidential through RTI methods.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes.
sp asked, Sir Can I ask for the mark sheets of my college examinations which were held between 1999-2002
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If your college is govt-aided and the mark sheets are available, you can get them under RTI. Please remember, information has to exist for you to be able to get it.
sandeepjain asked, hello, thanks for your contribution with reg to RTI. Can I ask PSU to give information regarding pricing policy to various customers. We are already customers to Hindustan Copper Ltd. We doubt difference in their sales policy
Shailesh Gandhi answers, This might be difficult unless you feel that for the same quantities and terms they are charging different prices. However, I think their need for commercial confidence and decision making would probably lead to their denying this information.
Mayank asked, Is there any website available to submit request for any information under RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is no such website (But things have changed now and we are having an online facilities now)
ali asked, I want right to information on line. so all you query should be submitted online also
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Presently, it is not very practical though the law does have a provision. The main reason is that most govt offices are not email savvy and the other problem is linking the application fee of Rs 10 with your email.
Lu asked, Photocopies of Cash book can be given to anybody.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Whose cash book are you referring to?
sp asked, Sir I would like to know the scope of RTI , whether it is only regarding matters of our concern or matters which we have an interest in or general cases like details regarding land ownership of other person
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Under RTI, you need no purpose or locus standi. However, you should read the 10 exemption clauses of the RTI Act given under Section 8(1).
PSen asked, Dear Sir, I want to see my ACR .is it possible using RTI? thanks a lot
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes, as per the RTI Act, it is certainly possible to see your own ACR.
Mahesh asked, Sir can the SC direct the CIC to furnish information or the CIC is the final authority
Shailesh Gandhi answers, As far as giving the information is concerned, the information commission is the authority to order giving of information. The SC can only be approached if someone feels that the law has been wrongly interpreted by the information commission.
RTIGenie asked, Do you think the rules of Delhi High Court contravene the RTI Act? If so, what can we do about it?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Unfortunately, most courts across the country have been defiant of the RTI law. I have really no solution as to how we can counter the lawlessness of the law interpreters.
Raju asked, Hi, Mr. Gandhi ! Sir, some times RTI is used to ask for information harass the PIO or the Public Servant as it would take far too much labour and time to compile. Also, too many RTI applications made in too many repetitive presumptive allegations. It seems to border on absurdity. Is it mandatory to respond to everything asked ? Is there any remedy where such a harassing motive is visible?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The RTI act provides for no such remedy. However, if it requires very large amount of resources to furnish the information, then it can be refused. However, one must always remember that giving information and keeping records properly should be the norm.
tejas asked, Sir, Is it possible for us to apply online to any govt. organisation asking for the details under RTI Act? If Yes, How?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Theoretically, it is possible. But in practice, it doesn't work presently in most cases.
Coelho asked, Sir my organization has making decisions that have no basis. Can one seek information on how they could arrive at such decisions, through RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the organisation is a govt organisation or a govt-aided organisation, then yes.
Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Can the Public Authority deny on the ground that the information sought is personal nature and is not having any public interest?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Certainly, if your question if your query is an invasion on someone else's privacy and has no public interest, it would be refused. It is necessary to realise and understand that all citizens also have right to privacy.
vbkondalkar asked, Hello Sir, I have prepared a small book consisting nearly 25 pages on the RTI can i forward it you to comment on the same
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can forward it to my email.
Coelho asked, Sir Can queries regarding decisions be made under RTI
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can ask for information on the basis of which these decisions were arrived at.
aries13 asked, I want to get details of all arms license issued in my district in the last 5 years. Will RTI suffice ? Whom should I give the Rs 10 fees ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You will have to find out the authority, which gives the arms licenses. You can ask the public information officer of the authority and also pay the fees to to him.
Ramkumar asked, Sir, Whether the Govt. employee who seeks info through RTI act should apply through proper channel?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Under RTI, all citizens of India have right to apply and there is no 'proper channel.'
rami asked, I didn't get my pf amount and also tax refund. Is there any possibilities are there to get my amount through rti act?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, This is the kind of problem for which RTI acts very well. You ask about the progress of your file specifically asking which officer had the file for how many days and what action did he/she take on it. Also ask for the norms for doing work as per Section 4 of the Act.
teomal asked, can we know i.e. have information about agreements made govt of India with maharaja of Kutch and Kashmir
Shailesh Gandhi answers, To my understanding, Yes.
scp asked, With the latest High Court judgment asking UPSC to divulge the preliminary results , can I apply for old mark sheets also ??
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the old mark sheets are kept by the UPSC, you will get them.
PSen asked, why CIC does not contain a High court or Supreme Court judge? will it help RTI cause?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some of the commissions do have retired judges. And I am personally not at all impressed or happy with the way our courts are functioning. I think the commissions should have a mix of various professions. But I am not really in favour of people from the judiciary to whom delays are a habit.
prashant asked, it is necessary and bound to the govt organization to place the board stating the names and designations of PIO
Shailesh Gandhi answers, This is a requirement of the Act. However, as an applicant, you can submit your application to the PIO of a particular office and need not worry about his name.
vijay asked, sir, in continuation of my query, pl tell whether I have rti to know why a product is sold by a company for a period of time and then withdraw it from the market. isn't it something like the mnc's are taking advantage of our legal loopholes.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, No, there is no such provision.
teomal asked, should already information supplied through be published on web sites
Shailesh Gandhi answers, It would be a good idea to do this. But I don't think this is being done by most organisations.
sp asked, sir regarding my prev question is there a govt rule which states how long the papers are to be retained because now under RTI it would become compulsory for such institutions to maintain such records
Shailesh Gandhi answers, How long records of any nature will be kept is primarily the prerogative of the organisation depending on its needs for record-keeping.
teomal asked, can supreme court and I courts give particulars of orders to third parties
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Even without RTI, this is being done.
anandpankaj asked, Sir I have filed two identical applications to two different bodies, both of who can provide information on the subject. What should I do if there is variance in their reply? Who do I move to?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If there is a variance in their reply, make a complaint to the information commission that one of them has given you false information.
prashant asked, for making appeal it is possible that person other than the applicant be present at the appeal hearing
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The law does not make any special proviso. However, it is commonly accepted that someone else can appear for the applicant if a letter of authority is given.
ak asked, Is it mandatory to give all replies under RTI Act?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. The reply can be the information is not available or exempt but giving a reply to a citizen is a normal courtesy, which the government should be following. The RTI act only reinforces this.
ajoyksen asked, Sir, I would like to get interest calculation for determination of EMI against home loan from ICICI. Am I eligible & can I ask them to give in writing?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am not sure but ICICI is not owned by the government. However, if the govt has a significant take, then it is covered and you can ask for the information.
Tushar asked, I am in central govt job. Every year we use give Annual assessment report(AAR) in prescribed format. But we don't know, what our reporting authority is doing regarding gradation(marking. Can we see our AAR/CR through RTI, Please guide us.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can access your own ACR.
varun asked, Aren't nuisance-mongers trying to abuse n misuse this wonderful piece of legislation, sir?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Any human endeavour or activity will always have some people using it wrongly, but overall the RTI is a great boon for citizens of India.
Abhinav asked, How to use RTI by post
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I personally sent all my RTI queries through registered AD post or courier. The POD that we get is the proof that the RTI application has been given.
Saivani asked, Can the information be denied stating that it is having commercial interest?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some commercial interests are safeguarded under RTI if there is no public interest.
jayesh asked, May I get the copy of last 10 years question papers for the post of P&A Officer and IRO of Graduate Trainee Test conducted for ONGC, MRPL or any company of ONGC Group under RTI Act.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. if they are available with the public authority.
Question: - You think some peoples are misusing the Act and started job of white collar extortion, if yes what could be steps you think to stop them and the benefit of intention of the Act should be delivered to poor people
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some public authorities have talked of this and my suggestion is that they should put the names of such applicants with the questions and their answers in public domain. This can be done on Internet or even on a notice board.
sudhakar asked, why is the fee for rti application not standard in all the states
Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is very great need for a uniform fee, application format and payment mode to be uniform throughout the country. This will come about only when citizens exert themselves to bring this about.
nlad asked, Is there any guideline available on writing RTI requests as how they should be drafted ? For eg : Whether it should be written as "I would like to know" or "I demand to know".
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The better method is to only state: "I want the following information"
udai asked, Sir, after getting information under RTI if I find the information does not matches with the actual implementation. Can I file a case in court?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The court is always available but is a fairly painful exercise. If you use RTI and bring into public domain things that are wrong, it does have a salutary effect on the govt.
dev asked, sir I want to see CBI report of Nithari. Can I? if yes how.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Presently, this may be denied by saying that the investigations are on.
shelendra asked, Mr. Gandi- can we seek details to collection and expenditure accrued by GOI under some head (say education cess) for last FY (06-07). I am interested in following details: 01. Amount collected state wise. 02. Amount spent on creating the facilities (state wise). 03. Amount spent for paying the salaries or revenue expenditures (state wise). 04. The total surplus or deficit for FY 06-07.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes, if accounts are maintained in this manner.
Coelho asked, Sir, Can a officer designated as Assistant Public Information Officer seek information from his own office when certain irregularities in functioning have been detected and no action is taken?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The assistant public information officer is also a citizen of India and therefore has a right to ask for information under RTI.
sucker asked, are there any other countries having acts like RTI sailesh???
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Around a hundred countries now have similar acts. Freedom of information and right to information are synonymous words and the first such act came in Sweden in 1766.
sp asked, Can we use RTI to get information of the activity in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
Shailesh Gandhi answers, All information that is recorded is available.
unnikrishnan asked, Sir, What we do in case if the information is not given by a particular Govt. Dept in a stipulated period.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can file an appeal and ultimately move the commission asking for penal provisions to be applied.
Pravin asked, Hello Sir, can we get the information from tahsildar related NA
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes.
raki asked, hello sir, what happens if we did not get the information that we want to the respective officer? what should we do if we didn't get the information we want from the respective officer. should we file a case in the court?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, In such a case, please file a first appeal. It is useful to follow the simple process of RTI, which can be done sitting at your house.
Anand asked, Sir I have applied for passport in lucknow office in feb 2005, all the process has been complete. I haven't got the passport ,I applied for RTI regarding the passport. It has been more then 30 days and still don't have any information. I want to ask is it still working, or it's just an act which is there but does not get implemented. What should i do now next?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Please file a first appeal and if your particular passport office is really lawless and still does not reply, do file a second appeal to the commission. A lot of govt offices are used to adopting an arrogant attitude towards citizens and a consistent use of RTI will bring about a positive change.
scp asked, Sir ,under this act Can I ask to divulge the cabinet discussions or the frivolous India-Pakistan talk details ??
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You cannot ask for minutes of the Cabinet meetings but you can ask for the decisions taken at these meetings and the basis on which these decisions were taken.
aries13 asked, We are a Residents Welfare association ( all are senior citizens) but we are not registered - just a voluntary body. Can we use RTI collectively ? or our society needs to be registered in order to file RTI application ? kindly clarify
Shailesh Gandhi answers, RTI is available to the individual citizen of India. There is no need to form any society to use this. You or any of your members can use the RTI act.
vbkondalkar asked, Do you think the Government Machinery are well educated enough to implement the Act.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, At present, the govt machinery and society in general does not have the attitude to observe all laws. However, all of us need to work towards this.
harshada asked, is any such thing which cannot b included in this act?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Except the 10 exemptions listen under Section 8 (1) and some of the security organisations mentioned in the act, all other information is available.
HSB asked, Hello Sir. Its not very clear whether File notings for Public servants can be made public or not. Can you please clarify the same
Shailesh Gandhi answers, File notings are clearly included in the definition of information as per the act. The information commissions have also consistently given rulings on this. The controversy however continues because the department of personnel and training of the Central govt continues to maintain an illegal stand.
Awadhesh asked, Sir my builder is maintaining the society where we lived. he charged Rs 1400/ per month per flat. Is there any provision in RTI to ask my builder to provide me the details of the expenses like electricity bill for the lifts, plumber /gardener/ security payments etc
Shailesh Gandhi answers, No.
Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Can the Public Authority deny on the ground that the information sought by an individual with regard to his own ACR's and other files, is personal nature and is not having public interest?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, An interpretation of this nature, which says that one can invade one's own privacy is laughable. This would be like saying I can't see myself undressed.
aries13 asked, In Jharkhand RTI is in very dire straits. Recently officials in the District Magistrate laughed when I went to submit an RTI application. They said it is not valid in Jharkhand. Is it true ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, It is certainly valid in Jharkhand, which is a part of India. If they refuse to take it in person, please try and send it by registered AD.
vbkondalkar asked, When the appeal in the Information Commissioner stand dispose off then we do not have any remedy in the case, and don't you think Mr. Suresh Joshi have acted in some case in bias manner, I think the provision to appeal in the directly High Court or Supreme Court should be get incorporated after the appeal been heard by Information Commissioner
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If a citizen feels that the information commission has not interpreted the law properly, there is a provision for going to court.
sp asked, Sir Regarding the question asked by aries13 , isn't it invasion of privacy when one asks for the details of all arms licence issued. The detail is not going to help anyone in anyway
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I was referring to details in terms of numbers issued and so on. The issue of whether the names should be given or not would lie in a grey area of the law.
Mahesh asked, Can the sister of a Labour ask information about from a PSU (Employer)about the suspension/dismissal of her brother.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The sister can ask. But it would useful to attach a letter from the brother saying that he has no objection to the information being given under the RTI application. Otherwise the PIO might say that this would be an intrusion on the privacy of the brother. Alternately, it could be a good idea for the aggrieved employee himself to ask.
aries13 asked, Can I ask the Municipality, Notified area for copies of building plans of my neighbour using RTI ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes.
kja asked, What is the time limit within which a reply can be expected on any question asked under RTI??
Shailesh Gandhi answers, 30 days.
Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Even after closing an investigation, the Public Organisation is responding that information can not be disclosed as investigation in the case is going on. As Charge sheet is filed in the case, can they refuse the information?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If chargesheet is filed and information is being refused, it is wrong and you should appeal.
vbkondalkar asked, don't you think the upper level appellant authorities are bias in case of RTI, because the appellant authorities are from the same organisation and they normally try to protect the mistake done by their juniors
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The appellate authority is a device basically for a review within the organisation. In the absence of this, the likelihood would be that the load on the information commissions would be impossible to handle.
aries13 asked, Does State bank of India com under RTI ? My loan application was rejected can I ask the reasons using RTI ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, SBI does come under RTI. You can ask for the details.
sp asked, sir Can we use the RTI act to get board resolutions general/special of public sector companies
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes.
Ramkumar asked, I have asked some info about the complaint lodged against me: i) Copy of complaint ii) Copy of supportive evidences and proof submitted by the witness iii) Decision taken by the authorities But the info has not been provided to me under clause 8(h). Guidance please...
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the investigation is continuing, the information is likely to be refused.
Rajat asked, Sir, My retirement benefits are pending for last 8 yrs with department . Can I ask explanation from the department.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You should use RTI using the simple device of asking the progress of your case or file. If you have not sent any written application in the last few years, you could first sent the written application and then follow up with an RTI asking for the progress.
teomal asked, will you like to publish answers given by you to some web site
Shailesh Gandhi answers, All my answers are in public domain.
aries13 asked, Are co-operative housing societies covered under RTI ? My society refuses to answer RTI application. Can you site some judgements ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Cooperative societies are not covered unless they are govt-funded.