Why is Drafting Needed for RTI and is So Important to do it Right?

Why is Drafting Needed for RTI and is So Important to do it Right?

RTI is an extremely powerful tool which ensures transparency of the government processes and rests with every Indian citizen to be used when the need arises. However there are instances when you can’t exercise RTI - you can have a look at such scenarios over here.

Filing an RTI is however, is a slightly challenging task as there are a number of formalities that need to be followed. That's why it is important to prepare a good draft of an RTI application before submitting it.

Here’s why we say that drafting is such an important aspect of RTI …

RTI Drafting means preparing a strong RTI application. Although the RTI Act says that you can ask for information in the simplest of language, the reality is quite different. We need to remember that just as the applicant needs to follow certain rules while filing the application, the officer who replies to us is also following some rules.

The most important thing to remember while preparing a strong RTI draft is that a simple government officer is replying to our application, not a lawyer or a robot!

This is important because we want to get information, so we need to make sure that the person who will respond to our questions understands the RTI draft without effort. There are many reasons your request for information can be rejected. Since we are putting such efforts to do RTI, we don't want that to happen. Keeping this in mind, always remember a few points while preparing your RTI Draft

  • Make it easy to reply to,
  • Include strong supporting evidence,
  • Mention all important information,
  • Ask for specific information,
  • Keep it simple

Now that we know some ways to make our RTI better, let us look at what Expert RTI Drafting Includes

1. Addressing to the Correct Department

This obviously is the most important part of RTI Drafting

Without the correct address, your chance of getting information is quite low. You will waste precious time if the application keeps getting transferred or worse fails to reach anywhere at all.

While filing an RTI application, you might not be aware of the department that holds a particular information and therefore it is complex to decide the department to which the RTI application has to be addressed.

For example: You wish to file an RTI regarding a financial policy being carried out by the government. There are a number of questions that can be asked for a single policy and each question can be relating to a different department.

In such a scenario, it becomes difficult for a layman to identify the department which has to be addressed in the application and hence it will eventually result in an improper draft as for every question the purview and role of a certain department would defer, and so will your draft questions.

Also, there are many local laws and judgments which apply which can change the body you should be addressing. In many instances, it takes a good amount of research to find out which government office holds the information.

The entire application format, language, payment changes if you need to change the office you want to send your RTI to. Therefore, the PIO designation, the exact address of the office, the department within the office are crucial details to make sure that your RTI is not rejected and reached the intended destination

2. Using Government Language

Not each one of us is aware of various government terminologies such as Abstention, Deficit, dissent, Flex-Time, GST, Impugn and so on. To file an effective RTI, one must remember to use correct government terminologies as and when required.

Also a knowledge of how certain processes are done and the general flow of work in government offices proves handy when asking questions to the authorities. Hence, drafting an RTI citing the correct terms in relation to such processes becomes crucial so that the the RTI is more effective.

For example, if you doubt of discrepancies in a certain government project, you cannot simply ask I would need to know the discrepancies in the project being carried out.

Instead you need to understand that WHAT is the discrepancy and what you need to ask can be…

  • Please provide the following details for all the works awarded during the period - mention period - for the mentioned constituency out of the - mention project or fund name:
  • Please inform me the amount of money that was allotted to the - mention officer post - during the current year and the amount that is carried over from previous years.
  • Inform the value of projects that have already been sanctioned.
  • Inform the value of projects that are yet to be approved, awaiting sanction.

And so on….

3. Pointing to Recorded Information

In certain cases the RTI has to be prepared in a particular language. Some RTIs are, for instance, prepared in English while it is compulsory to prepare some in Hindi or any other language. This all depends on the state or the department you are addressing to your query to. Again this is what makes your drafting phase so important.

Also, some offices have prescribed formats and word limits. It is always advisable to understand the way information is stored in the office you want to send your RTI to. This way you can point at exact records and information. In case you don't, the PIO will need to make extra effort or will reject your RTI saying they don't have the information in the way you want it. They will not create or collate information the way you want it, you have to ask for it in the way it is stored.

This is important to remember so that your RTI does not get rejected.

4. Quoting Sections of the Act or Court Judgments

There are some RTIs where in you have to quote certain sections of RTI Act 2005. Quoting certain sections from certain court judgments may also be needed along with the evidence of the case.

Normally, people don’t know what section of the Act or the court is needed for their RTI Application and not quoting these can be one of the reasons of an RTI application being rejected. So a good RTI draft should also carry the relevant citations of sections and cases. This makes it clear to the PIO that your case is strong and he can't ignore your information request. As a result, he considers your application seriously and avoids ignoring it.

5. Providing Strong Supporting Evidence

There are instances where you have to give evidence to support your case and the correct document(s) must be attached in the proper format (PDF, Word, etc). Not knowing which document to attach and the format of the document to be attached can cause problems and result in an incomplete RTI draft!

This includes understanding the laws/judgments under which you are entitled to the information. Also, you can predict possible reasons that can be raised to reject your application. Predicting them you can include points or other similar cases which give legal precedence for your request. When the PIO reads a letter with all the points covered, he cannot find any reason to delay or reject the application. All this helps in getting the desired result.

Now we know how important RTI drafting is and how it positively impacts the outcome of the entire exercise.

Let us also understand what is bad RTI drafting and what happens to badly drafted RTIs

Effects of Bad RTI Drafting and Why you should AVOID it:

It is best to let an RTI Expert handle the RTI application for you, as a poorly drafted RTI application can have serious implications; some of them are as follows:

1. Rejection

A poorly drafted RTI can lead to rejection of the application altogether. If you are unable to convey the type of information you are seeking, or aren’t able to give concrete evidence if required, the RTI application might be rejected. Therefore, drafting the application in a neat manner to clearly state the objective is important.

Also a basic and simple issue of not drafting it in the proper/required format can cause the rejection.

2. Not Receiving an Answer

Another effect of a poorly drafted RTI is not receiving an answer. You could wait for days and months, thinking that the application is being processed whereas, if you fail to provide a decent draft, the authorities will simply not respond.

Now while you can argue that the PIO is bound to reply within the 30 days timeline, but if there is grounds for an incorrectly or poorly drafted RTI application, there is always an escape route for the PIO to reject or delay the reply.

3. Transfer of Application from one department to another

This mainly happens when you fail to identify the correct department in your draft that holds the information, in your draft. Or even when you aren’t able to clearly state the department from which information is asked clearly. The application, in such case will simply be transferred from one department to another and this will keep on happening until the correct department receives and reviews the RTI.

Do note: Again here, if there is any scope of the RTI application being transferred from one department to another, the 30 day timeline for reply, will not apply.

All in all, drafting of an RTI is a crucial step if you want your application to be well received and answered by the authorities.

We highly recommend letting RTI experts do the drafting and filing of an RTI query for you.

Feel free to let the team of RTI Experts at OnlineRTI assist you in drafting, filing and sending your RTI application to the RIGHT Authorities in the Right Format, such that THEY HAVE TO Answer directly to you.

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