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Demystifying Right to Information Act 2005

M. Ramesh

17 Jun 2022

The Right to Information Act, 2005, is a pioneering law in India that strives to increase transparency in government organizations. The act establishes the rules and procedures for citizens' access to information. The act replaced the previous Freedom of Information Act of 2002. The Right to Information Act of 2005 requires the government to respond to citizen requests for information in a timely manner. It is an initiative of the Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, to provide RTI Portal Gateway to citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs, and other public authorities, as well as access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various public authorities under the government of India as well as state governments.

What is the objective of the Right to Information Act 2005?

The Right to Information Act's main goal is to empower citizens, promote openness and accountability in government operations, combat corruption, and make our democracy truly function for the people. Thus, a well-informed citizen is better able to maintain a close eye on the tools of governance and hold the government accountable to the people. The Act is a significant step toward keeping individuals informed about government actions.

What is information?

According to section 2(f) of the act, 'information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks. contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

What is Public Authority?

A "public authority" is any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution; or by any other law made by the Parliament or a State Legislature; or by notification issued or order made by the Central Government or a State Government. The bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Central Government or a State Government are also public authorities. Non-Government organizations substantially financed by the Central Government or a State Government also fall within the definition of public authority. The substantial financing by the Central Government or a State Government may be direct or indirect. The Act does not define substantial financing. Various courts/Information Commissions have been deciding on this issue on case-to-case basis, depending upon the merits of each case.

What is the Fee for Seeking Information?

A citizen who wishes to obtain information from a public authority must enclose a demand draft, banker's cheque, or Indian Postal Order in the amount of Rs.10/- (Rupees ten) payable to the public body's Accounts Officer as the fee for obtaining information. Fees can be paid in cash to the public authority or the Assistant Public Information Officer against a proper receipt.

The payment of fee to the Central Ministries/departments can also be made online through internet banking of State Bank of India or through Master/Visa Debit/credit cards. The applicant may also be required to pay further fee towards the cost of providing the information, details of which shall be intimated to the applicant by the PIO as prescribed by the Right to Information Rules, 2012.

Rates of fee as prescribed in the Rules are given below:

(a) rupees two (Rs. 2/-) for each page (in A-3 or smaller size paper);

(b) actual cost or price of a photocopy in larger size paper;

(c) actual cost or price for samples or models;

(d) rupees fifty (Rs.50/-) per diskette or floppy; and

(e) price fixed for a publication or rupees two per page of photocopy for extracts from the publication. (f) so much of postal charges involved in supply of information that exceeds fifty rupees.

A citizen has a right to inspect the records of a public authority. For inspection of records, the public authority shall charge no fee for the first hour. But a fee of rupees five (Rs.5/-) for each subsequent hour (or fraction thereof) shall be charged.

If the applicant belongs to the below poverty line (BPL) category, he is not required to pay any fee. However, he should submit a proof in support of his claim as belonging to the below poverty line category. The application not accompanied by the prescribed fee of Rs.10/- or proof of the applicant’s belonging to below poverty line category, as the case may be, shall not be a valid application under the Act. It may be pointed out that there is no bar on the public authority to supply information in response to such applications. However, provisions of Act would not apply to such cases.

What is the Format of Application?

There is no prescribed format of application for seeking information. The application can be made on plain paper. The applicant should mention the address at which the information is required to be sent. The information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information.

What is the Method of Seeking Information?

A citizen, who desires to obtain any information under the Act, should make an application to the Public Information Officer of the concerned public authority in writing in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. The application must be detailed and precise. In accordance with the RTI Rules, 2012, he must pay the application fee while submitting the application. The applicant has the option of sending the application via mail, email, or personally delivering it to the public authority's office. An Assistant Public Information Officer can also submit the application.

To whom the Application should be made?

The applicant should submit an application to the public authority's Public Information Officer. He should make every effort to determine which government department is in charge of the information. If an application requests information from many PIOs within a Public Authority or from multiple public authorities, the information will most likely take much longer to obtain than if the applicant requests information from a single PIO inside a single Public Authority.

The applicant should not enumerate his concerns in his RTI application; instead, he should specify the information or record he wants. Furthermore, if the application is written in such a way that it pinpoints the precise documents needed in order to obtain the information sought, there will be less room for ambiguity, and the Public Information Officer will be less likely to deny the application. Instead of merely asking why my area isn't being cleaned, you should inquire about the area's cleaning schedule. Similarly, rather than asking when we will have water supply, we should inquire about the area's water supply planning.

Can RTI filed online?

For all Central Ministries/Departments, the Department of Personnel & Training has launched a web site called RTI online with the URL This is a service that allows Indian residents to submit RTI applications and first appeals to all Central Ministries and Departments over the internet. The required RTI fees can be paid online as well. The individual PIOs/FAAs can respond to RTI applications and first appeals received via online.

To whom and when the appeal has to be filed?

If the information is not provided to him within the prescribed time of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be, or if the information provided to him is not satisfactory, an applicant may submit an appeal with the first appellate authority. Such an appeal must be submitted within thirty days after the expiration of the 30-day limit on information supply or the receipt of the information or decision of the Public Information Officer. The public authority's first appellate authority must rule on the appeal within thirty days of receiving it, or within 45 days in extreme circumstances.

If the first appellate authority fails to make a decision on the appeal within the prescribed time frame, or if the appellant is dissatisfied with the first appellate authority's decision, the appellant may file a second appeal with the Information Commission within ninety days of the date on which the first appellate authority should have made a decision or when the appellant received the decision.


Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Department of Personnel & Training, 'Guide on the Right to Information Act, 2005’, Office Memorandum, the 28th November 2013

Right to Information Act, available at:

Right to information, available at:

Author is Prof. M. Ramesh, Assistant Professor/ School Coordinator, School of Law, SRMIST

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