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Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India

According to a “Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India” prepared by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES), transparency is a key to promoting peoples’ trust in public institutions. The assessment found that several ICs were non-functional or were functioning at reduced capacity, despite large backlogs, as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner (CIC), were vacant during the period under review. In many cases, the appointments of information commissioners were found to be set aside by courts due to lack of transparency in the process of appointment and for being in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act and directions of the Supreme Court.
In addition, the Report, says, “By failing to disclose information on their functioning, ICs continue to evade real accountability to the people of the country whom they are supposed to serve. The legal requirement for the central and state information commissions to submit annual reports every year to Parliament and state legislatures respectively, is to make, among other things, their activities transparent and available for public scrutiny. However, very few ICs fulfil this obligation, and even fewer do it in time”. 
As part of the assessment, and in order to access information about the functioning of information commissions, both SNS and CES filed RTI applications with the 28 state information commissions (SIC) and the Central Information Commission (CIC). A total of 169 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 information commissions. The RTI applications were tracked to assess how each information commission performed as a public authority, in terms of maintaining and disclosing information. Three information commissions from Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu did not respond to, or even acknowledge, the RTI applications filed within stipulated time.
"Several ICs, like from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh rejected requests for information invoking provisions seemingly in violation of the RTI Act. In all these cases, an appeal was filed against the denial of information. However, till the time of publication of this report, the requisite information had not been disclosed," the report says.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, three State Information Commissions (SICs), Odisha, Sikkim and Kerala returned the RTI applications citing procedural deficiencies.
Only 13 out of 29 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment. Of the 107 chief information commissioners for whom data was obtained, the overwhelming majority (84%) were retired government servants including 67% retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and another 17% from other services. Of the remainder, 10% had a background in law (5% former judges and 5% lawyers or judicial officers).
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Resistance from banks in revealing Loan details to corporate entities

The RTI query, sent to the Ministry of Finance, sought details on individual exposure of various PSBs to corporate borrowers. The questions that were asked in the RTI query sought information on the loans given to the Reliance Industries, Adani Group, GVK Group, GMR and Jaypee Group. The RTI was first directed to the Finance Ministry, which then forwarded the RTI request to various banks asking them to provide the information. The RTI had questions on the money loaned to big industrial houses by government-run banks. However, all public sector banks except Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have refused to divulge information citing either the 'personal nature' of questions or how they don't fit under the provisions of the RTI Act. 
In their reply to the RTI query, the banks have said that the information available with banks under "fiduciary relationship" is exempted from disclosure.
Read about: Fiduciary Relationship under RTI
While Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have disclosed the loans given to big corporates, all other lenders refused to do so. Banks which did not disclose any detail in their reply to the RTI query include State Bank of India (SBI), Bank of Maharashtra, Corporation Bank, Indian Bank, Canara Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of India and Syndicate Bank. Earlier this month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha that loans worth Rs 81,683 crore were written-off by public sector banks (PSBs) in 2016-17.
Country's largest public sector lender, the SBI, said, "The information sought by you under point number three to eight is the third party personal information held by the bank in a fiduciary capacity, the disclosure of which is not warranted for any larger public interest and as such is exempted from disclosure."
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Upper limit of Rs 50 imposed on RTI Fee by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court fixed on Tuesday an upper limit of Rs 50 as application fee that government authorities can charge those seeking information under the right to information (RTI) act, the country’s transparency law.
Also, a bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said public authorities cannot ask for more than Rs 5 for each page as photocopying charge, and an applicant need not mention the “motive” while filling out the application form.
The order came on petitions challenging high fees set by different public bodies, including high courts and state assemblies.
The decision can be downloaded from here:
 
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43 years for RTI case finalisation in West Bengal- study

A biennial study conducted by Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies has revealed a grim picture of RTI Act implementation with waiting time at information commissions running in years and commissions in several states becoming non-functional owing to unfilled vacancies. The study has found that if an RTI appeal were to be filed in West Bengal state information commission on November 1, 2017, it would be disposed of in 2060 – after 43 years. In Kerala, it would take six years six months and Odisha 5 years 3 months. The main reason for such a long waiting time is the reduced number of information commissioners that commissions are working with. 
The report has brought out, what it calls a “concerning trend”. The information commissions, which are the last resort for the common man to complain against wrongful denial of information, are increasingly returning cases. The highest number of cases have been returned by CIC, followed by Gujarat, Assam and Uttarakhand.
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According to a “Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India” prepared by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES), transparency is a key to promoting peoples’ trust in public institutions. The assessment found that several ICs were non-functional or were functioning at reduced capacity, despite large backlogs, as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner (CIC), were vacant during the period under review. In many cases, the appointments of information commissioners were found to be set aside by courts due to lack of transparency in the process of appointment and for being in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act and directions of the Supreme Court.
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WHAT AFTER DECISION BY CENTRAL/STATE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

There are a large number of instances, where the State Information Commissioners are passing orders contrary to the spirit and object of RTI Act and contradicting the laid down procedures. Another issue is the Public Authorities did not comply the decisions of CIC/SIC and the Information Commissions are not strict about enforcing penal provisions under section-20. The Information Seekers feel they were pushed to the dead end. There is a common feeling that no appeal lies against the decision of State Information Commissioner. Let us examine it.
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Of late defiance of orders of Information Commissioners has become rampant. The only remedy with the information seeker is to lodge complaint with Chief Information Commissioner, who routinely issues another order for compliance that too after a delay ranging from 6 to 36 months depending upon efficiency and pendency of CIC/SIC. Commissions hardly invoke powers of Civil Court vested in it u/s 18.3 to ensure speedy compliance of its own orders.

Hence I suggest that if after two months of filing complaint of non-compliance [with copy to PIO, FAA and Head of public authority], as suggested in my separate article posted at http://www.rtiindia.org/forums/blogs/jps50/338-non-compliance-orders-cic-sics.html , you do not get information or compliance, please send letter as per attachment, after making suitable changes to suit your case. It may sensitize the machinery.

It is to be addressed to Chief /Principal Secretary heading ministry at Delhi under which public authority works for central govt information. In case of state govt information it should be addressed to Chief/Principal Secretary of the Department which oversees department of SPIO/PIO. Details are available on website of Ministry or Department.

NON COMP IC DECI - COMPT 2 GOVT.doc
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just another success story from RTI here
 
we live in suburbs and had a very poor road condition that went from bad to worse due to the recent monsoon. inspite of all these,there were frequent road diggings by the BSNL/EB and metro water people. there were times where there appeared visible road cavings making it even tougher for 4 wheelers. filed RTI with each of these department - EB/metro water/nation highways/BSNL on the approval they had for carrying out the road digging work and each one ended up pointing finger at other departments in their replies and got a vague response that temporary patch will be done.
 
finally filed a CM cell petition followed with few RTIs. and to my surprise,i could see glittering tar roads now and all this was done within a week's time with the vehicle involved in the road work having board as IMMEDIATE.
 
as always, i dont take credit for my RTI but am sure my petitions and RTIs would have made a difference /had made someone questionable and triggered to get the work done.
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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.

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?
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Guide to drafting a good RTI application

Drafting a good RTI application can be as easy as writing a simple leave letter. As long as the applicant knows the basics of the RTI Act 2005, drafting an application, requesting for information from any public authority, is little more than child’s play.

1. Pre-requisites:

Your full name and address have to mentioned in the application. If you so wish, you can also mention your telephone number and email id, although this is optional.

Have ready information about the Public Information Officer (PIO), his designation, address etc. In case you have problems locating your PIO/APIO you can address your RTI application to the PIO C/o Head of Department and send it to the concerned Public Authority with the requisite application fee. The Head of Department will have to forward your application to the concerned PIO.

Do not address your RTI application to the PIO by his name, just in case he gets transferred or a new PIO is designated in his place.

2. Preparing to draft an RTI application:

a) Carefully read Sections 2(f), 2(i) and 2(j) of the RTI Act, which defines the “information”, “record” and “right to information”. Your request for information should contain as many words as possible form these three basic definitions.

b) Read the relevant RTI Rules (either for the Centre, State or Courts) which are applicable to the public authority from whom you seek information. These rules will indicate the quantum of fees, the mode of payment of fees, any special application format to be followed, etc. Follow these RTI rules to the letter “T”.
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We must know our Hon'ble Member of Parliament daily routine. But unfortunately, you may not get that information from MP Office. They do not come under Right to Information Act.

But yes, you can get the details of the work Member of Parliament has undertaken by various means. Here are few:

1. Request General Administrative Department of the State Government to give you all the correspondence an MP has written to State Government for his constituency related work. You can get the reply and analyse his focus.

2. File another RTI (actually if you dig deep, it's already there in public domain) to get the information on number of days Hon'ble MP has attended the Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha. You can also find out what questions is the MP asking in the parliament.

You can also file in the Loksabha/ Rajya Sabha and know under which Parliamentary committee the Hon'ble MP is part off and how many meeting has he/she attended.

3. Then file an RTI in the nodal district which is the District having powers to disburse money under MPLAD funds (Hon'ble MP gets 5 crore per year under MPLAD, which is non lapsable). Get all the letters written by Hon'ble MP for recommending work under MPLAD. Once you have the information, analyse if at all any work is recommended by him/her, what is the nature of the work recommended e.t.c. MPLAD Fund Guidelines are available here!

4. Find out from the District, how may meeting has he/she attended under Vigilance Monitoring Committee and get the minutes of the meetings.

Generally, Hon'ble MP does not have many powers in the State Government especially if the District Administration is non-cooperative. A district collector only listens to Chief Minister, therefore, if MP does not have a very good repo with CM, the District Collector will rarely listen to him /her.
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The Right to Information Act 2005 empowers every citizen to ask for information from Government Organisations. This information can be about your own personal case or more complex Government Policy. The Act also empowers us to take photocopies of the Government records and also online data in a form of CD. However, often PIO being Government Servant who perhaps is also the custodian of the information has a conflict of interest in giving out such information.

Every Government Official at one point or the other has been trained to deceive politely. The RTI reply is no exception. Many times, the information given is full but empty. And they use smart writing skills to give but hide.

If you go through the various threads posted at our forums here, you will realize that most of the battle is won or lost during the framing of the questions itself. Our experienced RTI Experts and team members continuously go on improving the RTI Application questions on the user's requests. Let us now see what are the biggest mistakes you can avoid in your RTI Application.
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Please refer attachment which can be used while filing first or second appeal for denial of information quoting section 7.9 of RTI Act [Disproportionate diversion of resources]

Disproportionate Diversion of Resources under RTI Act 2005

Section 7 (9) of RTI Act 2005 reads as under:

In following cases it has been decided by CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION, NEW DELHI that Section 7(9) of the Act does not provide ground for denial of information.

1. Decision No.CIC/OP/A/2009/000204-AD dated 12-01- 2010

2. Decision dated 12-03-2009 in appeal No.CIC/WB/A/2007/01042:

3.  Decision dated 25.2.06 in appeal No.10/1/2005-CIC “

4.  Decision dated 26.3.2008 in appeal No.CIC/WB/A/2007/00349 “..

5. Decision dated 9.1.2009 in appeal No.CIC/OK/A/2008/01256

6. Decision dated 22.10.08 in Appeal No. CIC/WB /A/2007/00528-SM

7.   Decision No. CIC/OK/A/2008/01256/SG/0937 dated 09-01-2009.

Denial of information can only be under Section 8 (1) or Section 9.

8. Extract from Judgement dated 07-01-2010 of  HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS in W.P.NO.20372 of 2009 and M.P.NO.1 OF 2009
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1. Provisions in a law cannot be read in isolation, but all the relevant provisions have to be read along with together, for its harmonious construction:

The basic principle to be followed in law, is that while interpreting any provision, it has be read along with all the other relevant & applicable provisions, for the correct interpretation of the provision in question.

Sec 7 (1) is relevant & applicable while interpreting sec. 7(9) and therefore both these provisions will have to be read along with together for correct interpretation of sec. 7(9) of the Act .

2. Please find quoted below the text of section 7(1) & section 7(9) of the RTI Act, 2005 (emphasis added) :

3. Now, let us read sec. 7(1) along with 7(9) for its correct interpretation:

As per sec. 7(1), a request for information can only be rejected for any of the reasons specified in sec. 8 & 9 of the Act. Therefore it can be reasonably construed from sec. 7(1) that a request for information cannot be rejected under any other provisions of the Act. As such, sec. 7(9) cannot be given a meaning / interpreted in such a way so that it of becomes a ground for rejecting a request for information, in addition to sec. 8 & 9 of the Act.
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In a given Public Authority, there may be several Public Information Officers & First Appellate Authorities,

 And therefore, a PIO, in his response to a RTI Application, should inform a RTI Applicant about the particulars of the correct & concerned First Appellate Authority.

But in case a PIO does not do so, then a RTI Applicant should file a First Appeal, as follows:

 1. Visit the Public Authority's website and try and look for the details of the concerned First Appellate Authority (FAA) under RTI link, especially in section 4 declaration.

 2. If despite reasonable efforts, one is not able to find the details of the correct FAA, then one should file a first appeal, as given below:

 
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RTI FOR EPF ACCOUNT BALANCE

 A large number of information seekers approach RTI India Forum seeking help in filing RTI Application regarding the missing credit of EPF, lost transit case of EPF during transfer etc. RTI can be effectively used to obtain information in such cases as mentioned below:

The following documents / information can be sought from the PIO.

The employee himself can file RTI Application before the PIO of Employees Provident Fund Organization under whose jurisdiction the Employer Company falls. An RTI Application filed by any other person other than the employee himself will be rejected under Sec-8(1)(e). Therefore RTI Application must be filed by the Employee only. You can attach Employee ID Card as proof.

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The Central Information Commission in Second Appeal cases - F.No. CIC/SS/A/2013/ 002007-YA, F.No. CIC/SS/A/2013/002514-YA & F.No. CIC/SS/A/2013/ 002008-YA decided on 13/11/2014 held that the caste and educational qualifications of an employee is personal information of third party.

The Information Commission erred in passing such an order holding that the Caste Certificate is exempted from disclosure under Section-8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of RTI Act.

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Whenever information relating to or supplied by the third party is sought under RTI Act, PIOs refuse stating that information pertains to third party. Some PIOs issue notice to third-party u/s 11.1 and if the third party does not permit, PIOs decline supply of information stating that third party has not permitted or has objected to supplying of information. 

NOTE ON THIRD PARTY INFORMATION- REFUSAL BY PIO under RTI ACT

Whenever information relating to or supplied by third party is sought under RTI Act, PIOs refuse stating that information pertains to third party. Some PIOs issue notice to third party u/s 11.1 and if third party does not permit, PIOs decline supply of information stating that third party has not permitted or has objected to supply of information. First appeal needs to be filed based on following points under such circumstances:

01. Third party should have treated information as confidential while supplying the information. If it is not treated as confidential by third party section 11 will not come into operation.

02. Even when party has treated information as confidential, it has to be disclosed if larger public interest is involved outweighing in importance any possible harm to interest of third party. [This is not applicable to information relating to trade or commercial secrets protected by any law].

03. PIO does not require permission or NOC from third party. He has to give third party opportunity to be heard orally or in writing. He should then finally decide whether information should be revealed or not.

04. Even in case of third party, PIO has to deny information only under sections 8 or 9 as provided in section 7.1. PIO is also required to justify how he came to the conclusion that section 8 or 9 is applicable for such denial. Similarly, the third party should have objected to disclosure only under section 8 or 9, justifying non-disclosure.
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I am attaching list of successful consumer complaints at various District Consumer Forums.

List of Decisions of Consumer Forum as of 20-01-2012 Hon’ble District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forums as under have ordered supply of information and compensation to applicants of RTI Act 2005:

Decision dated 30.11.2011 of II Addl Bangalore in CC/1714/2011,


Decision dated 19/05/2011 of Faridkot in  CC/102/2011. 


Decision dated 09/11/2011 of Ludhiana in CC/ 662/2011. 


Decision dated 25/03/2011 of Tuticorin in CC/59/2010.


Decision dated 29/04/2011of  Vizianagaram in CC/ 116/2010


Decision dated 08/09/2011 of Mohali  in CC/249/2011


Decision dated 28.05.2009 of IInd Addl. Bangalore in CC/162/2009. 


Decision dated 20/04/2010 of  Mandi, H.P in CC/14/2009. 


Decision dated 21/05/2009 of Mumbai South  in SMF/MUM/301/2009.


Decision dated 24/05/2011 of  Nizamabad in CC/41/2010


Decision dated 29/11/2011 of Pune in F/564/2010


Decision dated 07/01/2011 of Guntur in CC/204/2010


Decision dated 08/09/2011 of Mohali  in CC/249/2011


Decision dated 29/12/2011 of Salem  in C.C. NO.54/2011


Decision dated 03/02/2011 of Tuticorin in CC/57/2010


Decision dated 24/08/2011 of Medak in CC/10/2011


Decision dated 02/12/2010 of Nagpur Addl in CC No. 140/ 2010


Decision dated 27/12/2010 of  Vizianagaram in CC/ 118/2010


Decision dated 21/01/2011of Vizianagaram in CC/ 124/2010


Decision dated 11/05/2011of  Naupada in CC/ 08/2011


Decision dated 07/04/2011 of Coimbatore in CC/399/2010
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Of late I am receiving messages seeking clarification as to how to calculate period within which information should be received, where other charges are payable. I clarify as under:

Suppose an RTI application contains following types of queries:

a. Queries which require no other charges:

Information should be mailed within 30 days from the date of receipt by PIO. These queries should not be delayed for other charges payment.

b. Queries pertaining to other public authorities:

They should be transferred within 5 days of receipt by PIO to other public authorities.

c. Queries which require payment of other charges:

Following calculation has to be worked out to know if the information is supplied within the stipulated time of 30 days.

No. of days from the date of receipt by PIO to date of dispatch of information minus no. of days from the date of dispatch of intimation to pay other charges to date of receipt of other charges = should not exceed 30 days.

If this period exceeds 30 days, then applicant can claim refund of other charges through first appeal.

This issue is clarified in section 7.3.a of RTI Act.

Date of letter may differ from date of dispatch and hence envelopes should be preserved.
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I have compiled guidelines to be followed while undertaking inspection of records under RTI. The same is attached herewith.

GUIDELINES FOR INSPECTION UNDER RTI

1. Even if you do not desire to carry out an actual inspection of records, invariably request as under in RTI application:

This will have deterring effect on PIO against providing false information.

2.  If you are not very conversant with the language of record or have any other disability, please also add the following sentence in RTI application:

 
ttp://rtiindia.org/blogs/jps50/2749-assistance-inspection.html
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Latest Update on 06/09/2013

The Statesman: Check EPF balance online from today


Now on, know your current PF balance instantly - NDTVProfit.com


epfo online - ???? ?????? ?? ???? ????? ?????? - Amar Ujala


EPFO LINK:  Member Balance




If the information is not available online, please refer these blog :

http://www.rtiindia.org/forums/blogs/jps50/76-how-know-provident-fund-status-through-rti.html


http://www.rtiindia.org/forums/blogs/raveena_o/2279-rti-epf-inquiry.html

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My bldg which is constructed some 1 year back I drafted an application stating "I want to inspect the stilt parking area, fire refugee area and basement of the Bldg, As per Section 2(j)(i)"
 
But unfortunately Municipal Corporation refused to give information stating that the information does not falls under purview of RTI.
 
I have made First appeal against the same, I have been asked to attend hearing.
 
Now I have never attended any hearing, I don't know what to do?
 
I request you to please guide the procedure and some do's and dont's to be followed during hearing.
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Files in which applications for grant of Arms Licenses were processed would certainly contain personal information of the applicants since no Arms License can be granted without obtaining personal information of the applicant. The disclosure of personal information which has no relationship to any public activity of the person to whom the information pertains. Hence, such information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (j) of the Act of the RTI Act, particularly when no element of public interest is involved in disclosure of such information. Therefore, the direction of the Commission for inspection of the files relating to applications for Arms License cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside.
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WHY DO INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS NOT IMPOSE PENALTY?

ICs are under the wrong impression that it is their discretion to levy or not to levy penalty at their will. In fact, once the breach of RTI Act is committed and not reasonably explained, the penalty must follow. 
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RTI applicants face the problem of language of reply, especially if the information is sought from other states. I had sought information from BBMP [municipalcorporation] Bengaluru and had requested that information be supplied in English. However, I received a reply in Kannada and I had to email to my relative to translate it.

I append below relevant extract from a judgment of High Court of Uttarakhand.

I infer that information supplied in language which the applicant does not understand is no information. PIO should supply either in English, Hindi or State language of PIO as per the choice of the applicant.

Recently, in Gujarat entire land acquisition process was declared invalid because notices were published in Gujarati newspapers, but notices were in Hindi which most of the affected farmers do not understand. 
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Kindly do not worry about the exemptions at the stage of filing a RTI application, as reasoned below
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How many times have you been asked to inspect the document when you have never requested? Ideally, if you have not applied for inspection of the document and the information requested is not voluminous, PIO should not ask the applicant to come for inspection of the document.

PIO Acts that makes you hate RTI ACT...
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How to Stop Corruption?

Corruption is one of the most disruptive problems faced by the world and it needs to stop without further damage to the humanity so as to have a better future for the coming generation.

India is one of the countries which are suffering due to the existence of Corruption. Impact of corruption is very hard on public life. This is more of awkward and defaming condition than being problematic. But it appears that the corruption is ever rising and unstoppable.

Further the people involved in corruption seem to be hiding themselves by blaming others. Even they are proud of themselves as they made more money in short time.

To worsen the condition further, those involved in corruption are able to get better promotions and opportunities.

People also have developed an opinion that it is the only way to get their work done. If not, the work will be pending for long or even might not be done.

Corruption—an important problem imposing political, economic, and environmental costs to societies around the world.

Corruption is a phenomenon involving many different aspects, and it is therefore hard to give a precise and comprehensive definition. However, at the core of most definitions of corruption is the idea that a corrupt act implies the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Classic examples include bribery, clientelism, and embezzlement. Other, often more subtle and sometimes even legal examples of corruption includes lobbying and patronage.

While long-run data on corruption is very limited, historical examples suggest that corruption has been a persistent feature of human societies over time and space. Two such examples are the sale of parliamentary seats in ‘rotten boroughs’ in England before the Reform Act of 1832, and ‘machine politics’ in the US at the turn of the 19th century

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