1. Are the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and other Private Organizations covered under the RTI Act?
NGOs come under the ambit of ‘public authorities’ if they are directly or indirectly funded by the Government.
2. In which language can the application be filed before a PIO?
The application can be either in:
- The official language of the area in which application is being made.
3. In which language is the PIO expected to reply to the RTI application?
The PIO should provide the copies of the records in the language in which they are available, particularly when the information is not required to be maintained in a particular language. The PIO is not expected to get into the role of a translator. However, the language policy should be followed in terms of the forwarding letter.
4. What are the essential requirements of an application filed before a PIO?
The essential requirements of an application are:
- The applicant should be a citizen of India;
- Particulars of information sought;
- Payment of application fee;
- Address of the applicant.
5. Can a PIO ask for proof of citizenship from an applicant?
Ordinarily no proof of citizenship is required to be submitted along with the application nor is the PIO expected to ask for a proof. However, in certain exceptional circumstances, a PIO may ask for the proof for example, if he has reason to believe that the application has not been filed by a citizen or if there is a doubt whether the applicant is an Indian citizen.
6. What are the modes of payment of the fee which should be accepted by a PIO?
For the Central Government Public Authorities, a request for obtaining information should be accompanied by an application fee of Rs. 10/- by way of:
- By Demand Draft;
- Banker’s Cheque;
- IPO -payable to the Accounts officer of the Public Authority.
- Online (if the RTI application is filed online through RTI portal.)
7. Should BPL applicants be charged for being provided the requested information?
Persons belonging to the Below Poverty Line category cannot be charged any fees / charges at all. The form of access can be decided by the PIO concerned, subject to the provision of the Act that information shall be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority.
8. If the applicant does not pay the additional fees towards cost of providing information within the 30 days deadline will the PIO be penalized for failing to provide information to the applicant?
No, the PIO will not invite any penalty in such cases. The 30-day clock stops ticking from the date of dispatching the intimation for further fees issued by the PIO and restarts on the date on which the applicant pays the additional fee [Sections 7(3)(a) & 7(3)(b)].
For example, if the PIO dispatches the intimation letter on the 5th day from the date of receipt of the complete application only 5 days would have elapsed from the 30 days limit. The clock will restart on the date on which the applicant pays the further fees. The PIO will have to provide the information within 25 days from the date of payment of such further fees. If the applicant chooses to seek a review of the additional fee from the appellate authority or the SIC/CIC the period taken for giving a decision on this matter (if it is decided that no further payment is needed) or for actual payment of further fees (if it is decided that further fees would need to be paid), will not be included in the 30 day limit.
9. Is the PIO expected to provide answers to all the questions in an application?
A PIO is expected to provide ‘information’ as defined under section 2(f) of the RTI Act and not answer the questions of the applicant.
An information-seeker can’t demand from a public authority its opinion or seek its advice in a matter of the petitioner’s interest. A PIO is not expected to provide intangible such as interpretations, opinions, advices, explanations, reasons as they cannot be said to be included in the definition of information in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. The reasons available on record should be provided and the PIO is not expected to post–facto create reasons.
10. When should 'Inspection' be allowed by the PIO?
In case where voluminous information is sought, the PIO may advice the applicant to inspect record, minimize & prioritize the requirement.
If the applicant is not sure what documents are needed, the inspection of records is being frequently resorted to. After the inspection, the applicant may seek copies of the limited documents which may be required. Wherever the applicant desires, inspection of record should be allowed especially in those cases where providing photocopies may lead to disproportionate diversion of resources.
11. Can any action be taken against a PIO if he has provided excess information or under information?
Under section 21 of the Act, no legal proceeding shall lie against any PIO for anything that is done or intended to be done in good faith. This provides for a fair degree of protection to the PIO and there shall be no penalty if he can prove that he has acted in good faith. The term ‘good faith’ has not been defined in the RTI Act. One may refer to the General Clauses Act, 1897, or the Limitation Act, 1908, to arrive at the definition.
For an act to be done in ‘good faith’ :
- the state of mind of the officer should be indicating honesty and lawfulness of purpose, and
- due care and attention should be exercised.
The rule of the thumb which all the PIOs may follow is to provide all the information sought by an applicant, unless it is specifically exempt from disclosure under the Act.
12. If the PIO has provided excess information or under information, can a request for imposition of penalty be made before the Information Commission?
Under section 21 of the Act, no legal proceeding shall lie against any PIO for anything that is done or intended to be done in good faith. Therefore, there shall be no penalty if the PIO can prove that he has acted in good faith.
13. What is the role of a First Appellate Authority (FAA) under the RTI Act?
A FAA plays an important role in the RTI regime.
- The appeals against the orders of the PIO are filed with the FAA.
- FAA is expected to dispose of the appeal within 30 days of receipt of application extendable to 45 days for reasons to be recorded in writing.
- If the FAA is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal, he may admit appeal after the expiry of the appeal of 30 days.
- Compliance with the orders of the Appellate Authority in the Department is the responsibility of that Appellate Authority.
14. Is a First Appellate Authority (FAA) expected to give a personal hearing in every case?
There is no provision in the Act calling for a mandatory hearing by the First Appellate Authority. If the applicant desires a hearing, the FAA may consider it favorably depending upon the facts of the case.
15. Can a First Appellate Authority (FAA) review its own order?
A FAA does not have the powers to review his own order. In case of a change in the FAA, the new incumbent cannot revise the orders of his predecessor.
16. What is third party information?
Any information which relates to or has been supplied by the third party is referred to as third party information. This may involve different types of records like those related to personal information of individual or commercial information about an organisation.
Protection of personal information, especially of a third-party, is a valuable privilege which should not be lightly done away with or diluted.
17. Are officials required to give information about themselves and their families under the law? Can the public request this kind of information? Should it be given?
Officials are not required to provide private or personal information which is exempted under Section 8(1) (j) of the Act. Again, this must be decided on a case to case basis (as has indeed been the case with the decisions of the CIC). If public interest is served by disclosing such information then it must be given.
18. If a citizen seeks information which is forbidden by other rules or Acts, what should a PIO do?
As the RTI Act prevails upon any other Act which is inconsistent with it, information cannot be denied to a citizen citing any rule or act other than the RTI Act. The provisions of the RTI Act will override the provisions of any other regulations to the extent they are inconsistent.
19. What are the conditions in which the information can be denied by a PIO?
The rejection of application can be done in the following cases:
- Citing exemption under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.
- Citing exemption under Section 9 of the RTI Act.
Other situations where information can be denied are:-
- Citing any article of the Constitution.
- For non-payment / improper payment of application fee.
- If what has been sought in the application is not ‘information’.
- If the RTI Act does not apply to a particular organisation, then citing exemption u/s 24.
- If the organization from whom the information is sought is not a public authority.
The CIC has also relied upon and quoted the Preamble of the RTI Act to claim exemption.If voluminous information has been sought, information cannot be refused citing section 7(9) which provides for only a change in the form in which it is to be provided.
20. What is a ‘fiduciary relationship’?
A ‘fiduciary relationship’ is a relationship of trust which may also be between a person and a juristic person such as Government, university or a bank. However, the most common example of such a relationship is the trustee of a trust, but fiduciaries can include business advisers, attorneys, guardians, administrators, directors of a company, public servants in relation to a Government and senior managers of a firm/company etc.
All relationships usually have an element of trust, but all of them cannot be classified as fiduciary. Information provided in discharge of a statutory requirement, or to obtain a job, or to get a license, cannot be considered to have been given in a fiduciary relationship.
The following kinds of relationships may broadly be categorized as “fiduciary”:
Trustee/beneficiary; Legal guardians/ wards; Lawyer/client; Executors and administrators / legatees and heirs; Board of directors / company; Liquidator/company; Receivers, trustees in bankruptcy and assignees in insolvency / creditors; Doctor/patient; Parent/child.