Can Questions be asked under RTI Act? What/Why/How/When?

Can Questions be asked under RTI Act 2005?Many a times, Public Information Officer (PIO) rejects request for information such as What/ Why/ How/ When by saying that questions can’t be asked under RTI. In this article I have explained “can questions be asked under rti act 2005?”

Can Questions be asked under RTI Act 2005?

Sub-section (f) of section (2) of RTI Act defines information as ” “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”.

The word ‘opinions’, or ‘advices’ used in this definition has created confusion among many citizens that they can ask PIO to provide any opinions or advices, and hence answers to any question.

Subsection (j) of section (2) of RTI Act defines ‘right to information’ as “right to information means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority……”

If we combinedly read sub-section (f) and (j) of section (2) of RTI Act, it means that we can ask questions under RTI if the answer to the question is available in record of public authority or in other records which is under the control of the public authority.

Let me explain this with examples:

We can ask following questions:

When was RTI Act, 2005 passed?

Who is Joint Secretary in PMO?

Where is the PMO located?

What is tenure of PM?

All of the above queries are prefixed with when, who, where, etc. However, answers to all these questions must be in record of public authority. Thus, such questions can be asked under RTI Act.

We can’t ask following questions:

Why Yogi Adityanath was appointed as CM of UP?

What do you think about performance of PM Modi?

How can Yogi Adityanath develop UP?

Answers to these questions may not be in record of public authority. The PIO may be required to provide his own opinion in these matters. Thus, you can’t ask such questions under RTI.

While the RTI Act does not expect the PIO to provide answers which are not on record, it does not mean that merely because the queries are prefixed with “why, what, when, whether” information can be refused.

By this point, I am sure that you have got answer to the question “Can Questions be asked under RTI Act 2005?”.

To know the step by step procedure to file RTI Application, you may visit How to File RTI.

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  • Viswas Menon

    Well explained with good examples. In fact I was to ask you about this and as if you read my mind posted this post. Thanks a lot.
    So a PIO cannot refuse to answer questions that begin with the words When, Who, Where, What. as an excuse for not answering or providing the information.
    He has to give replies to questions prefixed with such words as long as they information is available in his records or office
    Am I right in understanding this.
    So to an RTI seeking information about a road work, I can ask questions like
    “Why was the project undertaken?”
    Also I can ask the question “Where the mud excavated from the work was deposited?”
    I can also ask questions like “What is the length of the road work undertaken?” or
    “From Where the work started and where the work ended?”
    or “When did the work start and when did it end?”
    Please clarify and help.

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