How to file RTI plea (without getting killed)

Along with the spread of awareness about the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the threat on those using the law to expose corruption has also increased.

Every time an RTI applicant seeks information which has the potential to unearth the wrongdoings of influential people, he or she is at risk. In some cases, the threat remains limited to phone calls and in others, it cost the applicant his or her life.

Here are some of the points which, if considered, can reduce this threat level and make the RTI law more meaningful:

1. Disseminate the information: As soon as you receive sensitive information through the RTI Act, spread it among others. More people having the information reduces the threat risk to an individual.

2. Multiple applications on one issue: It is always better if many people file RTI queries asking for the same set of information. If the applicants are geographically spread across the country, it is even better.

3. Target the system, not individuals: If you are able to expose irregularities in the system, the officials involved will be held responsible by default. Before filing the application, try to search for a group of activists/applicants working on the cause which you want to take up. If possible, file the application on behalf of that group.

4 When your receive information from a public authority, intimate the head of that public authority about it.

5. Do not use the act as a blackmailing tool. The objective is of the act is to bring transparency in the government functioning and not to blackmail someone.

6. Be polite while interacting with the public information officers. They are just part of the big system.

7. In case your query is directed to an official or an individual, avoid direct contact with that person.

8. Approach police when you get the first threat call/threat in person.

(These suggestions are based on the views of leading RTI activists across the country)

This appeared on governancenow.com, January 25, 2011

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