Why RTI Applicants Must Know the Basics of Filing an Application; Here Is a Classic Case of How off the Track You Can Be!
Undoubtedly, the voluminous pending second appeals or complaints are major hurdles to the quick dissemination of information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A small percentage of the piling of pendency is also because of a series of RTI applications filed by the same applicant, sometimes ad nauseum.
Secondly, the penning of wrong applications where information is sought beyond the purview of the RTI Act also contributes to the time consumption of the central information commissioners.
Here’s a classic case, where the RTI applicant not only went beyond the scope of the RTI Act, fervently submitted a series of RTI applications but, finally, did not attend the second appearance.
RTI applicant YSV Prasada Rao filed 13 RTI applications between 24 March 2022 and 6 June 2022. The central public information officer (CPIO) replied between 31 March 2022 and 20 June 2022. His first appeal, since he is not satisfied with the CPIO replies, is heard between 18 June 2022 and 13 July 2022. His second appeal is received by the central information commission (CIC) between 23 June 2022 and 29 July 2022. The date of the hearing and decision of the CIC is 28 March 2023.
The information Mr Rao sought under RTI was all about asking the public authority, the prime minister’s office (PMO) in this case, for action. His RTI requisition was as follows:
I filed a grievance with registration number PMOPG/E/2022/0065017 on 24/2/2022 saying: Hon Prime Minister, My public grievance with registration number PMOPG/E/2016/11083 dated 10/01/2016 is disposed of after more than five years and six months on 16/07/2021 with remarks if your grievance is not resolved yet then please resubmit with all details. It is a horrible justice delivery system. Therefore, I request your kind intervention in this matter. On 28 Dec 2021, at 8.20pm, I sent an email to the Hon’ble Prime Minister. 
On 15/04/2022 I filed with registration number PMOPGE/2022/010877 saying:
Honourable Prime Minister, I filed a grievance with registration number PMOPG/E?2022/0065017 on 24/02/2022. Today when I checked, it shows under process against Current Status. Secondly, there is no column for reminders in the Grievance Status for registration number: PMOPGE/F/2022/0065017. I once again request your kind and immediate intervention. 
On 07/05/2022 my grievance with Registration no PMOPGE/F/2022/010877 was closed by the officer Satish Kerba Jadhav (director), department administration reforms and public grievances, PG Division saying: Sir, the provision is already there, kindly make use of it. Millions of citizens are already using it.
Addressing the CPIO, he asked, “I do not understand what the officer’s answer is. Secondly, in what this is an answer to my issue?”
The CPIO of the PMO office replied on 25 March 2022, stating, “It is informed that the request for action is beyond the scope of the RTI Act. In addition, it is conveyed that the applicant may please refer to the relevant frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the website of the office, i.e. http:www.pmindia.gov.in.”
Despite this, Mr Rao filed a first appeal. The FAA (first appellate authority), terming it as ‘miscellaneous information’ replied, “I have examined the records in this matter. On perusal of records, it is clarified in the context that no information as defined in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, is sought and subsequently furnished the response online.”
He also clarified that “The CPIO, PMO is not obliged to direct or cause action to be taken in respect of matters resting with other public authorities, as it is not given for in the Act. Further, the Act requires the supply of such information only which already exists or is held by the public authority. It is beyond the scope of the Act for a public authority to create information. Hence, the stand of the CPIO, PMO is in order.”
Mr Rao then filed the second appeal with the CIC. During the hearing, chief information commissioner YK Sinha observed in his order that “The appellant remained absent despite being served the hearing notice in advance. The respondent Praveen Kumar, deputy secretary (PMO), participated in the hearing through video conference.”
Mr Sinha disposed the case, ordering that “information as available with the public authority has been duly provided by the PIO, in terms of the provisions of the RTI Act. The appellant has chosen not to buttress the case nor appeared for hearing in these circumstances; the Commission finds that no further adjudication is warranted in these circumstances, the Commission finds that no further adjudication is warranted in these cases.”
For RTI users, the important part to remember while applying is that the information sought should not be vague. The RTI applicant should not ask questions (mostly to redress their grievance) but only seek information that is available on records with the public authority.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the 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”.)
8 months ago
The first thing to be noted is that the RTI Act is clear on two facts: there is no format for seeking info and there is no need to provide reasons for seeking info. However, it would be desirable if the information is sought is specific terms and serially numbered. Given the state of literacy in the country, it would be advisable for the the PIOs to split the request into specifics and numbered paragraphs. In fact this is logically permissible under proviso to Sec 6(1). Thereafter it is would be easy for the PIO to reply to the applicant. It would also help the appellate authorities to assess the defects/deficiencies in the reply and arrive at fair decisions. Unfortunately, my own experience is that even when the information sought is specific and in numbered paragraphs, the PIO give vague replies in general. In fact, even in my 2nd appeals I make it clear that the IC should specify against the paragraphs of the application whether the information sought has been provided or not and in the case of information not provided whether the application has been transferred to any other public authority or quote legally valid reasons provided by the PIO in failing to provide the information. But shockingly the ICs also resort to vague and irrelevant comments in their orders like all available information has been provided. A clear case of willful subversion of the law.

The other issue is of attending hearings. This is totally unwarranted as far as the applicant/appellant is concerned. All the relevant documents are submitted with the 2nd appeal and it should not take more than 5 minutes per standard appeal for the IC to conclude if all the information sought has been provided or not. There after he is only required to seek explanation from the PIO for not imposing penalty. This is in keeping with the mandate of Sec 20 for giving an opportunity of being heard to the PIO before imposing the mandated penalty. The copy of the explanation received along with the ICs comments should be provided to the appellant for his counter arguments, if any, before finalising the decision on the appeal. Right now the ICs conduct hearings which are a farce and even if it is established that the PIO has defaulted then a further hearing is conducted on the issue of imposing penalty for which the appellant is not given notice or heard. Quite often the case is closed thereafter without even informing the appellant. This is where the room for corruption arises. In fact all the cases where penalty is not imposed should be deemed to have been closed through corruption. There may not even be any need to prove the charges of corruption if the ICs are prosecuted under Sec 219 of the IPC. But with the judiciary leading the subversion of the RTI Act and the need to take permission from one public servant to prosecute another public servant by a member of the public, the task is impossible for ordinary citizens.
Replied to raviforjustice comment 8 months ago
Well written. RTI can be compared with the character "Daan, veer sure KARNA", a hero who became inglorious due to several curses on him by several others. RTI like Karna can give whatever is on record but is put to death by poor implementation levels.

8 months ago
99% RTI act misused by Officer and Public.
Replied to mukundashwath comment 8 months ago
With due respect, no one is still able to define what is "misuse" when the appellant need not provide any reason for seeking information. The 99% is abuse/misuse is a harsh statement and amounts to mockery of the enactment
8 months ago
There are indeed inadequacies in applications in 1% of the cases. But piling of second appeals at CIC is not due to such inadequacies. CIC must introduce a system to dispose such cases which are not proper on the face of it immediately within a month. The pendency at CIC is due to miserable failure of CPIOs and FAAs. If any research student takes up a survey in CIC by studying the appeals, he may come out with surprising results for such pendency. After 1l7 years, it is proper to ICs to impose fines as mandated in RTI act, as officials do lack fundamental knowledge even now. If there is an enactment that is most beneficial to a common man in Indian democracy it is RTI. If there is one that is most hated by Officials it is RTI. Now the implementation is on Ventilations and initial power and enthusiasm died down. RTI is not certainly for the redressal of grievances but it serves as feed back of a system. In this post though applicant has failed in his attempts to get the information, it is learned by readers that PGRMS is a failed system and PMO is not having any administrative control over Ministries to direct them suitably in deserving cases also. RTI served at least one purpose.
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