The Power of Information
It is amazing how information can be used to wield power the sharpest of swords and the bloodiest of guns are incapable of exercising. It is perhaps for the same reason that those in control of this bloodless weapon keep it close to their chest. The wind changed in 2005 when the Central Government passed a monumental legislation: the Right to Information Act. It took the power of information from those seeking dominance over it and empowered those in legitimate need of it.
Every information innately possesses the power to arouse passion. Those in power know this far too well.
The RTI Act possesses the immense potential to greatly benefit the student community. A student in any university or school can demand inspection of his answer script and also take its certified copies.
Who Can File?
Any citizen of India can seek information under the Act. There are no legal disabilities for students below 18 years. Guardians of such minors can also file an RTI on their behalf. The power to seek information extends equally to college students, examiners of departmental exams, public service exams and professional exams.
Whom to File?
The Act holds accountable “public authorities” to preserve and furnish on demand information in its control. Within the wide ambit of such authorities lie educational institutions, colleges and schools. Every such authority designates persons to act as Public Information Officers (PIO) or Assistant Public Information Officers (APIO). You can find the names of such officers on the website of your institution. In case names are unavailable, an application may be made to the PIO of any public authority (whether related to the relevant authority or not) for seeking information. It behoves such authority to transfer the application to the relevant authority within 5 days of receiving it.
How to File?
An RTI application simply indicates the desire to obtain information from the requisite PIO. So the first step in obtaining information is to draft an application. A simple application on a plain sheet of paper simply expressing the desire to obtain information may suffice. No explanation for the need/utility/purpose of such information is necessary. An application should ideally not exceed 500 words (excluding annexure).
The application may be written in English, Hindi or the official language of that area. It is always preferable to compose the language in formal and lucid terms (see sample at bottom).
Under the RTI, you may seek certified copies of your answer script or inspect them to your satisfaction. It is thus important to specify what you desire in the application. It is also important to mention the name of the PIO/APIO to indicate the addressee.
I Have Written the Application, What Next?
The next step involves paying for the RTI application. You pay for information at two stages. Firstly, at the initial stage, a standard payment of Rs. 10 is made in favour of the public authority. The PIO/APIO receives the application, inspects it and replies to the applicant indicating the cost of providing the information. Secondly, on receiving intimation from the authority of the cost, the applicant must pay the demanded fee. For photocopies made of A4 sheets, the RTI Rules stipulate payment of Rs. 2 per page. For pages of other sizes, the applicant is required to bear the cost of photocopies. For purposes of inspection, the first hour is free for the applicant and Rs. 5 is charged for each subsequent hour.
An applicant may make the payment in cash to the public authority or by means of cheques, demand drafts or Indian Postal Orders (payable to the Accounts Officer). You can pay postal orders online at https://www.epostoffice.gov.in.
I Have the Postal Order, What Now?
Post the application along with the fee at the designated address of the PIO/APIO. Once done, wait for their reply asking for the fee for providing the information. Pay accordingly. The public authority is by law mandated to reply satisfactorily within 30 days of receipt of request.
30 Days Have Elapsed But I am Yet to Receive a Response, Can I File an Appeal?
If 30 days have elapsed without any response, the information is deemed to be refused by the PIO/APIO. You can appeal against their decision within 30 days to the officer senior in rank to the PIO. The first appeal has to be disposed of within 30 days. A second appeal can further be filed within 90 days against the decision of the second appellate authority with the Chief Information Commission whose decision is final and binding.
What is the Easiest Way of Getting the Job Done?
If you don’t wish to be harrowed by the serpentine queues at the Post Office, you could file online at: https://rtionline.gov.in/. The website is maintained by the Govt. of India and may come helpful in seeking information from Central Universities. I have personally sought information (not answer scripts) using the website and the process is a breeze. The user is required to click on “Submit Request”, Agree to the Guidelines and fill the Request Form. Users can pay the requisite fee of Rs. 10 through Internet Banking and Debit/Credit Cards.
Though not maintained by the Government of India, http://www.onlinerti.com/ also assists applicants in filing RTIs. It is an excellent website that offers predefined formats of RTIs. For demanding information relating to answer sheets, the site has a template RTI that only needs to be fed with the personal information of the candidate. The fee at Onlinerti.com is nearly Rs. 150 and includes governmental fees, printing charges and charges for mailing by registered post. It also takes care of drafting the RTI in an appropriate format and finding the correct PIO. According to one happy feedback:
I received my GATE OMR answer sheet within 10 days of filing RTI. OnlineRTI is useful for students like me and kudos to IIT-K for fast response.
In case you find trouble drafting the RTI, feel free to use the template below.
Mr. XYZ [Name of PIO]
Public Information Officer [Designation]
University of ABC [Name of University]
PQR Road, New Delhi [Address]
Subject: Request for Information under the Right of Information Act, 2005
I am QWERT [Name], a bona fide student of WXYZ Programme [Discipline] of University of ABC. I have duly appeared in the Semester Examinations [Exam/Competition/Subject] for the month of January, 2014 [Month, Year]. My roll number is: 00000 [Roll Number].
I request you to provide me with the following information: [Choose any/all]
- Marks obtained by me.
- Cut-off Marks.
- Certified copy of the answer script.
- Model answer script.
- Guide provided to evaluators.
- Time and place for inspection of the answer script.
- Number of students seeking re-evaluation (including inspection, re-totalling, re-assessment, etc.) of answer scripts.
The above information can be provided at: ASD Road, New Delhi [Applicant’s Address].
I wish to bring to your notice the judgment of Central Board of Secondary Education v. Aditya Bandopadhyay (2011) 11 SCR 1028 (paragraph 18) wherein the Supreme Court held examining bodies like universities and schools liable to furnish copies of answer scripts and allow inspection thereof.
If the information sought herein is with any other public authority, please transfer the application to such authority within a period of five days (as per Section 6(3) of the Right to Information Act, 2005) and apprise me of such transfer and related communication at the address provided.
I am a ‘Citizen’ of India. I am enclosing one Indian Postal Order (Postal Order No. 00000) of Rs.10 dated DD/MM/YYYY in favour of the Drawing & Disbursing Officer, University of ABC [Mention as required] as the requisite fee. I am also enclosing relevant documents to assist you in furnishing the said information. Kindly let me know if you require further documents. I am ready to pay any expense incurred in making photocopies of documents on intimation of the same.
ASD Road, New Delhi,
Enclosed: [Attach Relevant Documents Necessary to Ascertain Identity]
- Postal Order Number 1234.
- Identity Card of QWERT.
- Admission Card of QWERT for Semester Examinations of January, 2014.
- SC verdict on making examining bodies bound to provide access for inspection and furnishing of its copies (refer para 18): CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay
- A helpful guide on filing RTIs:
- A video explaining the process.
- A step-by-step process to filing RTIs online:
- An online community of RTI activists.
P.S. – In case you have any query, feel free to ask in the comments below.
About Author: Anmol Vashisht is a budding lawyer. For long, Anmol has been blaming unfair evaluation for his poor grades. RTI is likely to burst his bubble.