DPDC Practical Guide Series | The Right to Information

DPDC Practical Guide Series | The Right to Information


The Right to Information (RTI) Act is a valuable tool for journalists in their pursuit of accurate, factual, and reliable information. The RTI Act, 2005 not only allows journalists to uncover vital details from the government, but it also helps them find and obtain sensitive and significant information to break major stories. This guide will cover the procedure for filing an RTI, the deadlines for submitting appeals, and other relevant information to be considered during the filing process.

When seeking to utilize this act, it is important to conduct thorough independent research on the subject at hand and to ask detailed, precise questions to limit the ability of the Public Information Officer (PIO) to misunderstand or refuse to answer. Prior in-depth research also ensures that information already available in the public domain is not asked. It is helpful to not ask more than 10-12 questions per RTI. If there are more, it is advisable to split the queries into two RTIs. Establishing whether the relevant public authority falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Government or the State Government will ensure that the appropriate Public Information Officer is approached for your inquiry. Once the questions have been framed and the relevant authority has been identified, an RTI can be filed.

Procedure to file RTIs Online

To file an RTI online for information from a Central Government public authority, one should follow the following steps:

  • Visit the RTI website at https://rtionline.gov.in and select the 'submit request' option.
  • Read the guidelines on the 'Guidelines for using the RTI ONLINE PORTAL' page and click 'submit'.
  • On the Online RTI Request Form, choose the relevant ministry or department and public authority from the dropdown menu.
  • Indicate whether or not the applicant is below the poverty line. If the applicant is below the poverty line, annex a BPL card certificate in the supporting document section. If not, a fee of INR 10 must be paid.
  • If desired, enter a mobile number to receive SMS updates.
  • After completing the form, click 'make payment' and choose a payment method.
  • Upon submission, the applicant will receive a confirmation email or SMS with a unique registration number.

It is important to note that this platform cannot be used to file RTI applications for state public authorities. Such applications must be made through the corresponding state portal, in person, or by post to the State Public Information Officer.

Procedure to file RTIs Offline

The process for filing an RTI Offline is as follows:

  1. Determine whether the relevant department falls under the jurisdiction of the state or the central government. Write the application in Hindi, English, or the local language and address it to the appropriate state or central Public Information Officer with a clear subject line. A sample RTI Application can be found here.
  2. Enclose the fee of Rs. 10 in the form of cash, bank draft, money order, court fee stamp or a postal receipt.
  3. Individuals who are below the poverty line are exempt from paying the fee upon presentation of proof.
  4. For the state of Gujarat, the applicable fee is INR 20 per RTI.
  5. Though as per Rule 3(2) of Kerala Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2006 and Rule 3(b) of Tamil Nadu Right to Information (Fees) Rules, 2005 the application fee is required to be paid by affixing court fee stamp to the application, remitting amount to the Government Treasury, cash, demand draft, or bankers' cheque, the State Authorities may insist on paying the fees via postal stamp
  6. Submit the application in person or by post to the relevant PIO.

It is advisable to use a registered post or a speed post for offline submissions. The applicant should keep a copy of the application and any correspondence for their records. For more information, refer to the RTI Rules, FAQs, and User Manual. The links to all the respective states' Online RTI portals, State Information Commission portals, and Public Information Officer's portals are available here, however, please note that some of the links provided on this page are non-functional or outdated

What are the time limits under the Right to Information Act?

Under the Right to Information Act, different time windows have been established for obtaining the information. The various timelines listed in the RTI Act, 2005 are as follows:



For PIO to respond to situations affecting "Life and Liberty" 

48 Hours 

For PIO to reply to application 

30 days from date of receipt of application 

For PIO to transfer to another PIO under Sec 6(3) 

5 days from date of receipt of application 

For PIO to issue notice to 3rd Party 

5 days from date of receipt of application 

For 3rd Party to make a representation to PIO 

10 days from receipt of notice from PIO 

For PIO to reply to application if 3rd Party involved 

40 days from date of receipt of application 

For applicant to make First Appeal 

30 days from date of receipt of PIO’s reply or from date when reply was to be received 

For First Appellate Authority to pass an order 

30 days from receipt of First Appeal OR Maximum 45 days, if reasons for delay are given in writing 

For applicant to make Second Appeal before CIC/SIC 

90 days from receipt of First Appeal orders or from the date when orders were to be received 

For CIC/SIC to decide Second Appeal 

No time limit specified 

Potential Challenges while Collecting Information through RTIs

The RTI Act, 2005 allows for exemptions from providing information under Sections 8(1) and 9. However, unless the relevant public authority can demonstrate that the requested information falls within one of the exempted categories, it is required to provide the information and must clearly state the grounds for rejecting any requests.

As per the Act, if an RTI application is filed with the wrong public authority, the receiving authority is required to transfer the application to the appropriate authority and inform the applicant immediately about the transfer, as stated in Section 6 (3) of the Act. This may delay the timeline at which the response to the RTI was anticipated.

Appeal Under RTI Act, 2005

If the Public Information Officer (PIO) fails to respond; charges unreasonable fees for providing copies of documents; fails to respond satisfactorily; or fails to respond within the designated time frame, you may file an appeal under the Right to Information Act. It is important to note that you cannot appeal any questions that have not already been asked, so the scope of the appeal is limited to the original RTI. You should review the rules in your specific state to determine the requirements for filing an appeal, or you can contact the Appellate Authority directly.

Every public authority appoints an officer senior to the PIO known as the First Appellate Authority (FAA) to hear appeals. If the Public Information Officer (PIO) rejects the requested information, it is their duty under Section 7(8)(iii) of the Act to provide the name and address of the First Appellate Authority (FAA) in their response. To file a First Appeal, the documents can be delivered in person to the FAA or sent by speed post to the FAA of the relevant public authority. Alternatively, the appeal can be sent to the Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) responsible for forwarding it to the appropriate Appellate Authority. When submitting a First Appeal, it is advisable to include a copy of the original RTI Application and the government's reply. If the appeal is due to the PIO's lack of response, a copy of the cover letter or postal receipt should also be included.

Filing a First Appeal with any Central Public Authority or most States is completely free. However, several states impose a fee for First Appeals; for instance, Maharashtra charges Rs. 20. The fees for the individual states can be found by visiting https://rti.gov.in/rti/states.asp. The fee can be paid by IPO/Demand Draft/Banker’s Cheque or in any other manner specified in the state RTI rules.

Once the First Appeal is submitted, a response can be expected within 30 to 45 days. It is possible that the outcome of the First Appeal may not be favourable and may only reiterate the initial decision of the CPIO. In such cases, it is advisable to file a Second Appeal depending on the importance of the requested information.

Second Appeal

If you are dissatisfied and aggrieved by the decision of the First Appellate Authority, the Right to Information Act permits the filing of a Second Appeal. Information Commissions have been established at the Union (Central Information Commissions (CIC)) and State levels (State Information Commissions (SIC)) to hear such second appeals. Appeals related to Panchayats should be forwarded to the SIC. A Second Appeal to the Information Commission against the decision of the First Appellate Authority must be filed within 90 days of the date the decision should have been made or the date the decision was actually received. However, the Information Commission has the authority to allow appeals after this period has elapsed if there are sufficient grounds for the delay.

The Central Government and some State Governments have established guidelines for the information that must be included in an appeal to the Information Commissions. However, there is no standard protocol for filing a Second Appeal and no fee is required. In addition to basic information about your application and its processing, your appeal should include supporting documents such as self-attested copies of the orders or decision notices being appealed, and copies of any other documents referenced in the appeal. Many state governments have made forms available on their websites under the RTI category. Before beginning the drafting process, it is advisable to review the guidelines for filing a Second Appeal provided by the Central Information Commission.

When filing a Second Appeal with the CIC, it is worth noting that it may take approximately 2 years for your case to be scheduled before the Commission. It is a time-consuming and daunting thought to consider a 2-year wait, however, it can be highly rewarding for your work and to society at large if the outcome turns out in your favour. Approximately 2 weeks' notice will be provided before the hearing, during which time you may submit written submissions in support of your appeal. If you are unable to attend the hearing, your appeal will be decided in your absence. Hence, it is important to keep a watch out for your second appeal hearing date, time and location. An example of some of the exemplary work that can be achieved over time is https://panoptic.in/ where extensive information regarding facial recognition systems in India has been gathered through the RTI process. Such projects demonstrate the value of leveraging existing tools in place to achieve valuable public outcomes. If you are not satisfied with the final order issued by the CIC or SIC, you may file a writ to the High Court or the Supreme Court of India.

We hope that this information helps you understand the processes involved in filing an RTI.

This Guide was prepared with assistance from Bharucha and Partners. This blogpost or any other blogpost published as a part of this practical guide series does not constitute legal advice.

Share this article: