Right to Information
Guide to RTI: Ask the right queries to obtain information you seek

The RTI is one of the most powerful tools and an essential democratic right of every Indian citizen. A handy guide takes you through the steps to file an effective guide

The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) that came into force eight years back has proven to be one of the most powerful tools put to use by every Indian—big and small—to obtain information that was all along denied under the garb of ‘official secrecy’. Thanks to the benefits of the RTI, many of India’s biggest scams and scandals are now exposed.

Deepak Sandhu, chief information commissioner (CIC), very rightly says, “RTI is a game changer. It has democratised information to the citizen’s advantage. The citizen is central in the Act. Other countries offer freedom of information while our legislation recognises it as a right.”

Here are a few tips to make effective use, to extract the most appropriate response, and minimise the possibilities of rejection on frivolous grounds.

  1. The RTI Act entitles you to obtain response by way of information within 30 days.
  2. Remember, it is the basic information that is being sought and not hows, whys and who’s of any matters.
  3. Information under the Act can be sought from central, state and local authorities, parliament and state legislatures, judiciary, police, security forces, public sector undertakings and bodies substantially financed by the state.
  4. You need to consider deeply about the precise nature of the information required to enable you to frame your query in English, Hindi or the state language very concisely in a few words.  Do not go on rambling explanations or suggestions or attempt vague roving enquiries.
  5. The RTI should never be used to settle scores or to target or harass any one individual or department. For instance: “Maine uske oopar RTI mara; ab ayega maza!”
  6. It is important that the information elicited should not be merely filed away. It ought to be taken forward effectively to get matters moving in the right direction and/or to set right systemic flaws, if any.  Possibly, if necessary, it can be put to use in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at a High Court.
  7. You can seek information pertaining to records, documents, memos, mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, images or any computer generated matter, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples models or electronic data.
  8. Under Section 4 of the RTI Act, you are empowered to visit, by prior appointment, the office concerned to inspect records and official documents and obtain xerox copies on payment of copying charges at actuals.  To enable you to do so, you are to be provided suitable table and sitting space within the office premises to carry out your verification/inspection exercise to flag the documents that need to be copied. For instance, authorities like the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) prefer Section 4 approach for the simple reason that it is you, who will flag only the documents/information required and that relieves them of the burden of hunting through a mass of bureaucratic red taped files and also the task of drafting a reply that has to be approved and finally signed, sealed to be sent to you within the mandated 30 days of receipt of your application.
  9. The Act also provides for inspection of government works and to take samples from sites.
  10. Section 6 of the Act has laid down a simple form that that can be copied on plain paper and signed by the applicant who has to be an individual and not any organisation.

  1. The application fee of Rs10 can be paid either in cash across the counter. Court fees stamp can also be affixed in the case of BMC and Maharashtra State or Demand Draft or Pay order in favour of the Accounts officer of the concerned department.
  2. However, a more convenient mode would be to obtain a Postal Order for Rs10, attach it to the application in duplicate and hand it in the RTI counter in any Head Post Office (PO). The PO counter clerk will retain the two copies and return duly stamped the third copy with the counterfoil of the postal order. The PO then despatches the application to the department concerned with a copy to you.

(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)




2 years ago

one person to purchase our house he gave 5,00,000 and take receipt for that and he has not give xerox copy of that receipt since 9 months he is not purchasing our house and saying i have given 50,00,000 and i have agreement but he does not have agreement under rti can we ask xerox of that receipt
plese suggest us

g s raveendranath

3 years ago

physical verification of departmental material comes under rti act 2005

Sundaram Finance Q2 net profit up 10% on tough auto finance market

During the September quarter, the lender’s income from operations rose 11% helping the company to record moderate net profit of Rs122.72 crore, despite slow growth of auto sector finance

Sundaram Finance Ltd, India’s fifth largest non banking financial corporation (NBFC) reported a 10% increase in its second quarter net profit on slowdown in auto sector financing, especially commercial vehicles and passenger cars.

For the quarter to end-September, the lender said its net profit rose to Rs122.72 crore from Rs111.50 crore while its revenues from operations rose 11% at Rs558.31 crore from Rs504.45 crore, same period last year.

The company registered positive growth despite fall in auto sector financing on slow auto sector growth. Its loan disbursement increased just 6% for the half year ended September 2013, to Rs5,178 crore.

“Market conditions continue to be challenging with the sales of commercial vehicles and passenger cars having fallen sharply and prospects of an early revival appearing unlikely. We will continue to focus on our stated objectives of growth with quality and profitability,” said TT Srinivasaraghavan, managing director, Sundaram Finance Ltd.

Sundaram Finance’s gross non-performing assets (GNPA) during the second quarter stood at 1.58% and net non-performing assets (NNPA) at 0.94% only. Its capital adequacy ratio (CAR) stood at 17.66% as on 30 September 2013.

At 12.25pm Tuesday, Sundaram Finance was trading marginally down at Rs520 on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex was marginally up at 20,652.




3 years ago

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So who is Carmen Segarra? A Fed whistleblower Q&A

Ex-New York Fed examiner fired after criticizing Goldman Sachs has advice for Janet Yellen: It will take tough oversight to stop the next financial crisis

Former bank examiner Carmen Segarra vaulted into public consciousness earlier this month when she filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York fired her after she refused to go soft on investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs.

As ProPublica has reported, the Fed hired Segarra in late 2011 as part of a group of examiners brought on to monitor systemically important banks in the aftermath of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul. The Fed wanted experts in key areas — such as operations, compliance and credit risk — to examine the “Too Big To Fail” financial institutions.

Segarra's career path seemed to make her a perfect fit. Segarra, 41, was born in Indiana, raised mostly in Puerto Rico and graduated from Harvard. Her father, a doctor, encouraged a life-long love of learning. She is a polyglot, fluent in Spanish and French, conversant in German and Italian. Even in the midst of preparing her lawsuit, she continued with classes in Dutch, which she says is "totally messing up my German."

After getting a master's degree in French cultural studies at Columbia's campus in Paris, she went on to law school at Cornell. She then spent 13 years working at different financial firms, including Citigroup and Société Générale. Outside of the office, she held leadership positions in the Hispanic National Bar Association. Hired by the Fed as a legal and compliance specialist, she was told to pay particular attention to how Goldman was complying with the Fed's requirements on conflicts of interest.

Segarra says she was fired after she found that Goldman lacked an adequate company-wide policy to manage conflicts of interest — and after her superiors urged her to change this finding and she refused. The Fed has denied any wrongdoing in the case, as has Goldman, which is not a defendant in Segarra’s lawsuit.

Readers have asked who is this woman who dared to challenge two of Wall Street’s most powerful institutions. We put some questions to Segarra to learn more about her background.

Q. Bank examiner — to most people that seems an obscure job. What’s the attraction?

A: I actually studied business law and regulation in law school. I co-wrote a law review article on Y2K [the millennial computer bug], which ended up being published. As a result of that, my co-author and I were asked to work on setting up the Y2K legal and compliance program for a bank. I discovered early on that I enjoyed learning about a law and immediately applying it, much the same way that I enjoy learning and speaking a new language. As a general practitioner, I have worked closely with a wide range of laws and regulations that apply across the banking and investment sectors, as opposed to just specializing in one particular type of law or regulation. As a bank examiner, you get to use that knowledge and those skills to evaluate what others have built, and, if and when necessary, point out ways to improve them.

Q. Some commenters say your story isn’t surprising — investment banking is all about conflicts. Agree?

A. Sadly, yes. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are laws, rules, and regulations already in the books that, if regulators enforced them properly, would go a long way towards fixing this problem.

Q. Some, including Michael Silva, the senior fed official at Goldman at the time of your examination, have cited Goldman’s Code of Conduct as evidence that it had a firm-wide conflict-of-interest policy. Why do you believe that this did not satisfy Fed requirements?

A. Goldman did not think its Code of Conduct was a firm-wide conflicts-of-interest policy. When we asked for a copy of their firm-wide conflicts-of-interest policy, Goldman did not submit its Code of Conduct to us for our consideration. Goldman was correct not to think so. SR 08-08 [the Fed requirement for firm-wide conflicts-of-interest policies and procedures] and its supporting and related documentation do provide guidance as to the content you would expect to see discussed in a policy. Goldman's Code of Conduct does not satisfy the requirements and expectations of SR 08-08. Other banks agree with Goldman. At the time, some had adopted both a Code of Conduct, which these banks did not consider a policy, as well as separate conflicts-of-interest policies. My direct management and some of my peers did not think Goldman's Code of Conduct was a conflicts-of-interest policy. Policies in banks are actually pretty standardized documents, with clear titles and content directly related to the title/purpose of the document, written in a language meant to be understood by every employee at every level.

Q. Does the Fed have the resources to keep up with big banks?

A. The Fed is self-funded, so yes. The issues are lack of backbone, transparency, thoroughness and perseverance, not lack of resources.

Q. If you had 10 minutes with Janet Yellen [President Obama’s nominee to be chairwoman of the Fed], what advice would you give her?

A. Stimulus and good monetary policy are keys to getting the economy back on track. Although not as sexy, transparent, thorough, and rigorous supervision, constantly and consistently implemented across all supervised institutions, is key to preventing the next financial crisis.

Q. Goldman says it has overhauled its policies and procedures to manage conflicts. Based on their report, do you think the bank would pass muster now?

A. The report does not provide enough detail to ascertain whether or not they would pass muster. You would really have to look at the actual policies, procedures, and other supporting elements they say they have implemented and measure them against SR 08-08 before making that determination.

Q. Would you call yourself a whistleblower?

A. Absolutely!




4 years ago

A gutsy woman. We need people like her in India.


4 years ago

This a typical Indian syndrome here where we fail to ask the right questions just because the concerned party has the authority. This goes to show US is as bad or perhaps worse than India. None of the top financial institutions have been reprimanded for the 2008 crisis. Neither have the americans taken Mr.Obama to task for not punishing the BIG banks infact they elected him to an other term!!!

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