There are clear guidelines from the CIC for the PIO. So, the next time a PIO dilly-dallies over the information you have sought use this
While the RTI Act does empower the citizen to procure information from public authorities, it is sometimes intimidating for him, when the Public Information Officer (PIO) to who he submits the application, does not reciprocate as per his duties, laid out in the Act.
Did your PIO ignore the information you sought even after the mandatory 30 days? Did he provide vague or insufficient answers? Did he not forward your application to the relevant PIO in case the information that you asked for, did not fall under his jurisdictions? For these and any other deficiency in giving you information, there is no need to throw up your hands (the government would just love if this happens). The Central Information Commission has spelt out the role of a PIO, in detail, and it is important that you, as a RTI applicant should be aware of it.
Time and again, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has issued circulars and guidelines to PIOs to be sensitive to the information sought. It has also repeatedly directed all public authorities to strictly abide by the Section suo motu
disclosures. (check this out: http://persmin.gov.in/DOPT/RTICorner/Compendium/COMPENDIUM_Final.pdf
). However, defiance to such directives continues but it would help, if the citizen is aware of what the PIO SHOULD do for him.
Here are some pearls of wisdom uploaded in CIC online at the website http://rti.india.gov.in/
which need to reiterated considering the common complaints of unfriendly PIOs
1. PIO must know the RTI Act fully: The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of a public authority plays a pivotal role in making the right of a citizen to information a reality. The casts specific duties on him and makes him liable for penalty in case of default. It is, therefore, essential for a CPIO to study the Act carefully and understand its provisions correctly. Following aspects should particularly be kept in view while dealing with the applications under the Act
2. The PIO MUST give you information in any of these formats: A citizen has a right to seek such information from a public authority which is held by the public authority or which is held under its control. This right includes inspection of work, documents and records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; and taking certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority
3. Your PIO should know that you can seek information that a MP has access to: The Act gives the citizens a right to information at par with the Members of Parliament and the Members of States Legislatures. According to the Act, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature, shall not be denied to any person.
4. The PIO should give you information in the format you want: The information to the applicant should ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought. However, if the supply of information sought in a particular form would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or may cause harm to the safety or preservation of the records, supply of information in that form may be denied.
5. PIO is duty bound to assist you: The Central Public Information Officer has a duty to render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking information. As per provisions of the Act, a persons, who desires to obtain any information is required to make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. If a person seeking information is not able to make such request in writing, the Central Public Information Officer Should render reasonable assistance to him to reduce the same in writing. Where access to a record is required to be provided to a sensorial disabled person, the Central Public Information Officer should provide assistance to such person to enable him to access the information. He should also provide such assistance to the person as may be appropriate for the inspection of records where such inspection is involved.
6. You can insist that the PIO follows Section 4 suo motu disclosures: The Act makes it obligatory for every public authority to make suo motu disclosure in respect of the particulars of its organisation, functions, duties and other matters, as provided in section 3 of the Act. The information so published, according to sub-section (3) of section 3, should be easily accessible with the CPIO in electronic format. The CPIO should, therefore, make concerned efforts to ensure that the requirements of the Section 3 are met and maximum information in respect of the authority is made available on the internet. It would help him in two ways. First, the number of applications under the Act would be reduced and secondly, it would facilitate his work of providing information inasmuch as most of the information would be available to him at one place.
7. The PIO has no right to ask you, the reason for your seeking information: An applicant making request for information is not required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. Also, the Act of the Rules does not prescribe any format of application for seeking information. Therefore, the applicant should not be asked to give justification for seeking information or to give details of his job etc. or to submit application in any particular form.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”