Every Act or Law contains clause for protection of its provisions against non-compliance, and so does RTI Act, 2005. Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005 assigns duty and power to the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission (hereinafter referred as CIC or SIC), as the case may be, to protect the RTI Act against non-compliance by the Public Authority. We can say, CIC or SIC acts as Guardian of the RTI Act. In this article, I will explain when to file and how to file complaint under RTI Act.
Grounds for submitting Complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005
Before explaining how to file complaint under RTI Act, let me provide you grounds for complaint. You may file complaint under section 18 before CIC or SIC, as the case may be, in following circumstances:
(a)You have been unable to submit RTI Application to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer (hereinafter referred as CPIO or SPIO), as the case may be, because of any of below reasons:
(i) No CPIO or SPIO has been appointed under this Act by the Public Authority; or
(ii) CPIO or SPIO has refused to receive your Request for Information; or
(iii) Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer (hereinafter referred as CAPIO or SAPIO), as the case may be, has refused to accept RTI Application for forwarding the same to the CPIO or SPIO, as the case may be.
(b) You have been unable to submit First Appeal under Section 19(1) or 19(2) to the First Appellate Authority (hereinafter referred as FAA) because of any of below reasons:
(i) No FAA has been appointed under this Act by the Public Authority; or
(ii) FAA has refused to receive your First Appeal; or
(iii) CAPIO or SAPIO, as the case may be, has refused to accept your First Appeal for forwarding the same to the FAA.
(c) You have been unable to submit Second Appeal under Section 19(3) to the CIC or SIC, as the case may be, because CAPIO or SAPIO has refused to accept your Second Appeal for forwarding the same to the CIC or SIC.
(d) CPIO or SPIO or FAA has malafidely rejected Request for Information or First Appeal, as the case may be;
(e) CPIO or SPIO or FAA has not provided reply to your RTI Application or First Appeal, as the case may be, within specified time under RTI Act;
(f) CPIO or SPIO has asked you to pay an amount of fees, which you consider unreasonable;
(g) CPIO or SPIO has provided incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act;
(h) CPIO or SPIO or FAA has malafidely refused inspection of records of public authority or has not extended reasonable cooperation during inspection of records;
(i) CPIO or SPIO or FAA or any other person directly/indirectly intimidates or ill-treats or pressurizes you or restraints you from exercising your right under the RTI Act;
(j) CPIO or SPIO or FAA or Public Authority defy orders of CIC or SIC;
(k) Public Authority has not obliged to the provisions of Section 4 (proactive disclosures) of the RTI Act;
(l) Any other situation when you have been wrongly restrained/refused access to information for which you are entitled as per provisions of the RTI Act; and
(m) Any other violations of provisions of the RTI Act by CAPIO or SAPIO or CPIO or SPIO or FAA or Public Authority.
When to submit Complaint (Time Limits for submitting Complaint) under Section 18:
RTI Act, 2005 does not provide any time limits within which you must submit complaint under section 18. You may submit complaint at various stages ranging from ‘before filing RTI Application’ to ‘after decision of CIC or SIC’. For example, you can submit complaint before filing RTI Application in situations mentioned under points (a), (i), (k), (l), and (m) above; or you can submit complaint after decision of CIC or SIC in situations mentioned under point (j). You can submit complaint without filing First Appeal.
Though RTI Act does not specify time limits for submitting complaint, you should submit complaint within reasonable time. Later in this article, I will explain in detail how to file complaint under RTI Act.
Powers and Functions of Information Commissions under Section 18 of the RTI Act:
Under section 18, CIC or SIC can initiate inquiry, and impose penalties on SAPIO or CAPIO or SPIO or CPIO or FAA or Public Authority or any other person responsible for violation of provisions of the RTI Act, but can’t direct CPIO or SPIO to furnish information. Section 18 makes the CIC or SIC guardian of RTI Act by assigning duty to CIC or SIC to protect the RTI Act against violation. This means, if anyone defies the provision of the RTI Act, then CIC or SIC can initiate enquiry and impose penalty on the person as per section 20.
Under section 18, it is the duty of CIC or SIC to receive complaint from any person in aforementioned situations. After receiving complaint, if the CIC or SIC, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. You may note that “inquiry” has much wider scope than “hearing”.
While inquiring into the matter, CIC or SIC, as the case may be, shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), in respect of the following matters, namely:
- summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons (any person, not only CPIO or SPIO) and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath or affidavit and to produce the documents or things;
- requiring the discovery and inspection of documents;
- requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office;
- issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents;
- calling for any public record to be placed before it (not only the information requested in the complainant’s RTI Application; and
- any other matter which may be prescribed.
In this way, CIC or SIC has been conferred with sufficient power to protect the RTI Act against violation. Now, you should know how to file complaint under RTI Act.
How to File Complaint under RTI Act:
You can lodge complaint before CIC or SIC, as the case may be, on any of the grounds mentioned above. Now, I will explain how to file complaint under RTI Act. You may follow step by step procedure provided below to file complaint before information commissions:
Step–I: Find the Address of Information Commission:
You can get the address of information commission from the website of the concerned Information Commission. You can also get the address of information commission at below link:
- Addresses of Central/State Information Commission for submitting Second Appeal or Complaint (Coming Soon)
Step–II: Check RTI Rules of concerned Information Commission:
The Format and Fees for lodging complaint are not uniform among CIC, and SICs. For example, CIC, and some SICs do not prescribe any format for lodging complaint, but some SICs require minimum documents to be submitted along with complaint. CIC does not charge any fees for complaint, but some SICs do so. Thus, before lodging complaint, you should check the RTI Rules of concerned State. You may find the RTI Rules of Centre as well as State at RTI Rules of Central and State Information Commission.
Step–III: Write your Complaint:
Write your complaint as per format prescribed in concerned RTI Rules. If no format is prescribed, you may write your complaint in the format provided at below link:
Step–IV: Self attest all pages of complaint along with attachments:
Sign all pages of complaint along with attachments by writing word “Attested”. This is required to confirm that you verify the correctness of all the facts submitted in complaint.
Step–V: Serve copy of complaint to all persons against whom you are lodging complaint:
Take as many copies of your complaint along with attachments as the number of persons against whom you are going to lodge complaint plus two (one for yourself and other for information commission). Serve copy of complaint along with attachments to all persons against whom you are lodging complaint and preserve the proof of submission with you. You may serve copies by hand or through Registered Post/ Speed Post.
Step–VI: Submit Complaint before Information Commission:
You may submit your original complaint + one additional copy along with attachments and fees, if any, to the CIC or SIC, as the case may be, by hand or through Registered Post/ Speed Post. If you submit your complaint by hand then never forget to take acknowledgement from commission.
Step–VII: Preserve copy of complaint and proof of submission, and subsequent follow up with information commission:
Keep copy of complaint along with attachments for reference. After one week of lodging complaint, you may check the registration status of your complaint at the website of concerned information commission. If your complaint is registered take the registration number and note it on your complaint copy. If your complaint is not registered within 15 days, you may contact registry in information commission through e-mail or phone number, ask them to trace your complaint and register the same.
By now, you may have understood how to File Complaint under RTI Act. If you still have any doubt on how to file complaint under RTI Act, you may ask through comment box.
You may visit difference between Complaint under section 18 and Second Appeal under section 19 to understand the relative scope of Complaint under section 18 and Second Appeal under Section 19. Now, you may have understood when and how to file complaint under RTI Act, 2005.