Complete guide to Right to Information (RTI) Act in India



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Right to Information


The Right to Information Act was passed to empower the citizens of India, bring in transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and control corruption. Through exercise of right to information, people are now better informed and equipped to keep necessary check on authorities and make government more accountable to the people for its actions and inactions. The Act allows every Indian citizen to seek information from government departments, public offices and government officers by filing a simple application

Right to Information Act, 2005

By provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every Indian citizen has the right to ask a public authority for information regarding its operations. Being able to access public records is vital for the smooth functioning of a modern democracy. The basis for democracy is openness in the functioning of the government. Openness can only be met when the 'right to know' is exercisable by the common man.


This Act gives the citizens a right to seek information at par with the Members of Parliament and the Members of State Legislatures. According to the Act, information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any citizen. The act aims to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public office. It provides an effective framework for effectuating the right to information which is a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution of India. It is paramount to furnish vital information to citizens who desire to have it


The Right to Information Act was brought forth to improve the flow of information from the state machinery to the common man and to increase accountability of bureaucrats for their actions. Since the establishment of this Act, it is seen that applications have been made to seek information which would hold the government accountable for actions or inactions in various sectors, like road and transport, the municipal corporation, the status of pension schemes, passports, so on and so forth . The information-seeking individuals receive information timely and thus, chances of misinformation from non-governmental channels can be avoided.

Who has the right to seek information?


Only citizens of India can ask for information under the RTI Act. Artificial legal persons such as corporations, associations, and companies, societies are legal entities, but not citizens. As such, artificial legal persons cannot ask for information as a matter of right. However, an application can be made by an officer of such artificial legal persons (provided the applicant is an Indian citizen) in his own name. In such cases, it would be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the corporation etc.

Who can be asked for information?

Information under RTI act can be asked from all government departments, public offices and government officers, including those appointed under the constitution - such as the President of India, the Prime Minister of India, Members of Parliament, Chief Justice of India, etcetera. Further, any institution formed by an act of Parliament, or by an act of a state legislature, by order or notification of the government falls within the purview of RTI. Also, bodies which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by government and NGOs which are substantially financed by the government are also covered by the Act. However, the right to seek information from a public authority is not absolute. There are certain organisations and certain types of information that are exempt from the scope of the RTI Act.

Who cannot be asked for information?

    The following 22 organisations are exempt from the purview of the RTI Act:

    • Intelligence Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Ministry of Finance
    • Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Ministry of Finance
    • Directorate of Enforcement, Ministry of Finance
    • Narcotics Control Bureau
    • Aviation Research Centre
    • Special Frontier Force
    • Border Security Force, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Central Reserve Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Central Industrial Security Force, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • National Security Guard, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Research & Analysis Wing of The Cabinet Secretariat
    • Assam Rifles, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Sashastra Seema Bal, Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Special Protection Group
    • Defence Research and Development Organisation, Ministry of Defence
    • Border Road Development Organisation
    • Financial Intelligence Unit, India
    • Directorate General Income Tax (Investigation)
    • National Technical Research Organisation
    • National Security Council Secretariat

What information can be asked for?

The RTI Act allows citizens to ask for records, documents, circulars, contracts, reports, papers, emails, memos and all other information held in print or electronic form from any public authority by following the prescribed procedure. This right includes physical 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. As a general rule, all information can be sought by making an application under the RTI Act with the relevant department.


What information cannot be asked for?

    There are several cases where information cannot be provided to an RTI applicant. These are as under:

    • information which may adversely affect the security of India, harm its interests, adversely affect its relations with foreign State, or lead to incitement of an offence
    • information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law, or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court
    • information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or of a State Legislature
    • information, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party
    • information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship
    • information received in confidence from a foreign Government
    • information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes
    • information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders
    • cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers. However, the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and when the matter is complete, or over
    • information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual
    • Information, disclosure of which would involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the government.

In addition to the above, it is important to note that only such information can be supplied that is available, existing, and is held by or is under the control of the public authority. The Central Public Information Officer is not supposed to create information that is not a part of the record of the public authority. The Central Public Information Officer is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inference and/or making of assumptions; or to interpret information; or to solve the problems raised by an applicant; or to furnish replies to hypothetical questions.

What is the procedure for filing an RTI application?

    • In order to get information using an RTI, an application has to be filed with a designated officer, called Central Public Information Officer (PIO), of the concerned public authority. The applicant requesting the information is not required to specify the reason as to why the information is needed.
    • Identification of the department is necessary to know if the authority falls under the purview of municipal government, state government or central government.
    • On a white paper sheet the application should be typed or handwritten with details regarding the office you seek information from and the address.
    • The application should be sent to the Public Information Officer with a subject line of, 'Seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005'.
    • A fee of Rs. 10 is charged to file the plea. A proof of the payment should be enclosed within the application. Applicants below the poverty line need not make any such payment.
    • The application can be submitted via post or in person. A copy of the application should be kept with the applicants.
    • If the public Information Officer rejects the application, a reason for such a rejection is given and the period for an appeal is mentioned.
    • The application can also be made online.
    • The applicant has to take care to avoid framing the application in such a way which may lead to dismissal of the application.

What are the fees to be paid for getting information?

In addition to the application fee, there are certain other fees which may be required to be paid. If an applicant is required to make payment for obtaining information, in addition to the application fee, the Central Public Information Officer would inform the applicant about the details of further fees and the calculation made to arrive at the amount payable by the applicant. After receiving such communication, the applicant may deposit the amount by way of cash against proper receipt, by Demand Draft, Banker’s cheque or by Indian Postal Order in favour of the Accounts Officer of the concerned public authority.

    The rates of fee as prescribed in the Right to Information Rules, 2012, are given below:

    • for physical documents: Rs. 2 per page of size A3 or smaller. For larger sizes, cost as actual
    • for samples or models: actual cost
    • for diskette or floppy: Rs. 50 each diskette or floppy
    • for a publication: price fixed for such publication
    • for extract from a publication: Rs. 2 per page of photocopy
    • as postal charges for supply of information only: none till Rs. 50, actual thereafter
    • as postal charges for supply of materials, models, etc: at actual
    • for inspection of records: none for the first hour, Rs. 5 for every hour thereafter.

An applicant belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category is not required to pay any fee. In such a case, the application should be supported by proof of BPL status. If an application is not accompanied by the prescribed fee of Rs.10/- or proof of the applicant’s belonging to BPL category, the same shall not be a valid application.


What is the time period for furnishing information?

In normal course, information to an applicant is to be supplied within thirty days from the date of receipt of application by the public authority. If information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, it is required to be supplied within forty-eight hours. If the Central Public Information Officer fails to send decision on the information requested, within a period of thirty days or forty-eight hours, as the case may be, the information may be deemed to have been refused.

Can an online application be filed under RTI?

The government has launched www.rtionline.gov.in for all Central Ministries and Departments. This website allows Indian citizens to file RTI applications and first appeals to all Central Ministries and Departments. The prescribed RTI fees can be paid online. Reply to the RTI applications and first appeals received through this website are given online by the concerned Central Public Information Officer.

In what cases can information be denied?

A citizen has a right to obtain information from a public authority in the form of letters, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts, if such information is already stored in a computer or in any other device.

    The following type of requests for information may be denied by the Central Public Information Officer:

    • Where the supply of information is sought in a particular form, which would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or may cause harm to the safety or preservation of the records;
    • Where the applicant expects the Central Public Information Officer to give information in some particular format or pro forma created by the applicant
    • Where the applicant expects the Central Public Information Officer to extract only a portion of the information on the basis of research by the Central Public Information Officer.

Under the RTI Act, a Central Public Information Officer is required to supply information as is available in the official records, but not to do research on behalf of the citizen to deduce anything from the material and then supply it.

Appeal under Right to Information Act

Under the act any information asked for, should be provided within a period of 30 days. If the officials fail to comply with this then the applicant can make an appeal to 'The Appellate Authority' mentioning the name of the department who has failed to provide the requisite information.

If the Appellate Authority also fails to respond in 30 days, the applicant can appeal to the Information Commission at the state or central level. In exceptional cases the time period can be extended to a period of 45 days.

It is to be kept in mind that the rejection for information made by the relevant government official may be valid and there are certain restrictions about the nature of information which may be asked.

First level of appeal

An applicant can file an appeal if the required information is not supplied within the stated period of thirty days or forty-eight hours, as the case may be, or if the applicant is not satisfied with the information furnished to him. The first level of appeal lies within the public authority itself. The appeal is to be made to an officer senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer, within a period of thirty days from the date on which the limit of thirty days for supply of information has expired or from the date on which the unsatisfactory information or decision of the Central Public Information Officer is received. The appellate authority of the public authority is required to decide on the appeal within a period of thirty days (in exceptional cases, within 45 days) from the date of receipt of the appeal.

Second level of appeal

If the first appellate authority fails to pass an order on the appeal within the prescribed period or if the appellant is not satisfied with the order of the first appellate authority, he may prefer a second appeal with the Central Information Commission. This second appeal has to be filed within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made by the first appellate authority or was actually received by the appellant.

    The second appeal has to be in the format specified under the Right to Information Rules, 2012. The application for second appeal has to be accompanied by:

    • Self-attested copies of the order or documents against which appeal is made
    • Copies of the documents relied upon by the appellant and referred to in the appeal;
    • An index of the documents referred to in the appeal.

If the documents are not in order, the second appeal will be returned back for correction by the Central Information Commission. The Central Information Commission will decide on the appeal after giving a personal hearing to the applicant or to the applicant’s representative, either in person or over video conference.

What is the procedure for filing an RTI application?

    • In order to get information using an RTI, an application has to be filed with a designated officer, called Central Public Information Officer (PIO), of the concerned public authority. The applicant requesting the information is not required to specify the reason as to why the information is needed.
    • Identification of the department is necessary to know if the authority falls under the purview of municipal government, state government or central government.
    • The application should be typed or handwritten on a white paper sheet alongwith the details and address of the office you seek information from. The application should be sent to the Public Information Officer with a subject line of, 'Seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005'.
    • A fee of Rs. 10 is charged to file the plea. A proof of the payment should be enclosed within the application. Applicants below the poverty line need not make any such payment.
    • The application can be submitted via post or in person. A copy of the application should be kept with the applicants.
    • If the Public Information Officer rejects the application, a reason for such a rejection is given and the period for an appeal is mentioned.
    • The application can also be made online.
    • The applicant has to take care to avoid framing the application in such a way which may lead to dismissal of the application.

Complaint under RTI Act


    An applicant can file a complaint to the Information Commission under RTI Act in case of the following circumstances:

    • if a Central Public Information Officer has not been appointed by the concerned public authority.
    • if the Assistant Central Public Information Officer has refused to accept the application or appeal for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be.
    • if the applicant has been refused access to any information requested by him under the RTI Act.
    • if the applicant has not been given a response to a request for information within the time limit specified in the Act.
    • if the applicant has been required to pay an amount of fee which the applicant considers unreasonable.
    • if the applicant believes that the information supplied is incomplete, misleading or false.

Under the RTI Act, a Central Public Information Officer is required to supply information as is available in the official records, but not to do research on behalf of the citizen to deduce anything from the material and then supply it.

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