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RTI Application : Information vs Question


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Dear friends,

 

I feel some more emphasis should be given on how to draft the Application requesting 'information' from the Public Authority, under RTI Act. A poorly drafted or technically defective Application is likely to defeat the very purpose - or at least delay it.

 

It is true that there can be no generic proforma because circumstances would widely differ in individual case. However some guidelines can be be compiled, because a well drafted Application is half the job done. I feel in many cases the request for information is not clear enough or the CPIO/PIO take advantage of technical/procedural loopholes.

 

I try to start the list:

 

(1) 'Information' is distinct from 'Question', though a slight manipulation of language can turn the each into the other. RTI Act cover 'Information' but not 'Questions' or 'Opinions'. For example:

Question: Whether is true that an amount of Rs. $$$ received under scheme XXX was fraudelently disbursed to some individuals.

Information: Please provide me a list of all beneficiaries, along with the amount disbursed to each of them, of the funds received under scheme XXX.

 

(2) Information should exist in some material form (on file, computer, etc) in the possession/control of Public Authority. It is in the interest of speedy response, applicant should indicate the probable holder of the information (concerned department/section/officer) in case of a large organisation.

 

(3) There may be cases where the Public Authority do not maintain the information properly, though it is supposed to do so. For example, (a) total number of requests received (b) requests accepted for fulfilling the required criteria © reasons for rejecting the remaining requests. Such things generally happen in organisation engaged in large public dealings (for example a bank accepting or rejecting loan applications).

 

(4) It may not be a good idea to request for unnecessarily volumenous information just because one can do so. However, this should not defeat the purpose of seeking information.

 

(5) When that nature of information required or possible holder of information is not clear, inspection of records may be resorted to, to exactly identify what is required.

 

(6) One should be prepared that not all CPIO/PIO would be willing to help and properly guide the applicant in obtaining the information, even though it is his/her duty. A typical officer in a govt. office (CPIO/PIO) will view a new application under RTI Act as an additional burden (for which he will not get any extra pay). As a result, he/she will try to discourage the applicant from filing the application (like the Police discourage filing of FIR), because it will add to his/her (already excess) 'workload' (?). So, be ready to insist on your right to file application under RTI Act. Threat to quote his/her name if refuse to receive the application.

 

(7) One should not go by oral conversations that can not be proved. Under RTI Act, let everything be in writing. Govt. official is very expert in misleading you when he can not be held responsible, but when his name and handwriting is involved, he won't dare to lie. This is as true about CPIO/PIO as well.

 

OK, let us improve this list together.

 

N.K.Saini

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colnrkurup

Very well summarised useful information. By now most of the PIOs are aware of the likely problems when they deny an information. I find the PIOs in generl are not oppossed to give out innoscent informations. But when one ask for an information which if provided is likely to expose an illegal practice or wrong deeds, he knows very well that he or his colleague or his predecessor is likely to get the blame. Some of the culprits might have been promotted. Some of them might be at the verge of promotion or retirement. No PIO will like to disclose such informtion and the trouble start from there. Invariably the PIOs discuss the consequences of divulging such information with their AAs where possible. This is the main reason why there is a similarity in replies one get from the PIO and AA in such cases. In very serious cases,the solution is to seek bits of information which prima facie does not convey much. Later combine these bits and pieces and confront with the contradications when the PIO is left with no choice but to give out exctly what one want to know.

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karira

nksaini,

 

That is a very well written and explained piece.

 

There is a new segment on the forum called "Guide" - link is available on the top right side of the page.

 

Let us wait for some time for others also to give their views and additional points, if any. Then I will request you to redraft the above piece and we can post it in the Guide segment under "Tips for drafting an RTI Application". It will be very helpful for people in the initial stages of using RTI.

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karira
maneesh

N. K. Saini

has very well written about question and information. In fact it is the most important aspect in framing a RTI Application.

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(1)

I find the PIOs in generl are not oppossed to give out innocent informations. But when one ask for an information which if provided is likely to expose an illegal practice or wrong deeds ...

 

(2)

In very serious cases,the solution is to seek bits of information which prima facie does not convey much. Later combine these bits and pieces and confront with the contradications when the PIO is left with no choice but to give out exctly what one want to know.

 

Point (1) us obvious. But in practice one is compelled to resort to RTI Act when he/she is unable to obtain the information because it is potentially embarassing of harmful to the Public Authority (or some official of PA).

 

About point (2), except for 'very serious cases', I think it may not be advisable. When I approach CPIO/PIO with my qurey, he (or the concerned officer) would know, more than myself, how serious the information is or could be. I do not think one can win with them in a game of which they are masters, on thier own playground. During the hearing of one of my case, I was assured by Information Commissioner something like: RTI Act gives the common man powers similar to those available to police or investigating agency. You can go and ask for any information (provided it is covered by the RTI Act) with the difference that police can do it quickly but RTI Applicant would have to wait. So, as long as it is solid information, one should not fear of anything to ask for it. To counter it all, perhaps emphasis should be given on drafting a water-tight Application under RTI. In any case, careful reading and understanding of RTI Act, its different sections, reading of decision of other similar cases, etc, would be helpful. And experience is best teacher of all.

 

What one would do with the information obtained through RTI Act is another matter. RTI Act itself do not solve any problem, but the information obtained through it can be used through some other channel. Also, transparncy helps minimise corruption/irregularity.

 

N.K.Saini

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colnrkurup

I have been successfully following the method I had explained as a result I have 6 cases where I do have documentary evdiences signed by the PIOs establishing that the particular public servant has commited a criminal offences. It include cases where the PIO has delibertely omitted in the copy issued the incriminating sentence of the original letter.Now I do have certified copies of both letters duly signed by the PIO, a Deputy Collector and ADM of a District.

 

In another case the incriminating sentence of a statement of public servant made before the Vigilence likely to be injurious to certain powerful vested interest is struck out by the Investigating Officer ( done subsequently, appears to be at the instance of some one ) and not initialled by the public servant who made the statement. In fact I had heard the public servant making the above statement during the investigation.In the photostat, this much portion is darkened to that extend that it is not readable The persons involved are a Deputy Collector(Vigilence); a Commissioner( Land Revenue) etc etc. etc. The Commissioner has gone to the extend of initiatting a case to government seeking the Vigilence Department of Revenue under him tobe included in the excepted department's list. Of cource the government has turned it down and he was compelled to provide the above copy on second appeal when the above juggleries are seen done.

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Shrawan

As this thread does not belong to Public Beta testing, I am shifting this to 'RTI General Discussion'

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