In order of most to least convenient, the main methods to submit a formal Right to Information Request are:
The MaHoaLi* portal created by the Information Commissioner's Office allows us to submit and handle all our RTI requests from one place. It shows us how many days are left until the deadline in each stage of the RTI process, and we can submit requests to the Review Committees at institutes, as well as submit appeals and complaints to ICOM if needed – all through the portal itself.
Users are required to register before making use of the portal but that has an advantage as well: The information required to submit a request (name, address, phone number) are saved and will not have to be manually filled every time. Additionally, there is no need to find the contact details of Information Officers, and it is as easy as selecting the name of the institute we want to request the information from.
*MaHoaLi – stands for MAuloomaathu HOAdhaa LIbigathun
Even though several institutes have made their own 'version' of the form under their own letterhead, ICOM's form will do just fine and they CANNOT refuse your form for having a different letterhead.
The easiest way to submit a RTI form would be to fill and email to the Information Officer at the institute (cc to one or more emails to ensure they receive it). Submitting a physical form is also an option and a great way to ensure that they receive your form without a shadow of a doubt.
If the contact details of the Information Officer at the state institute is not available from their website, ICOM has a list with the contact details of ALL of the Information Officers at every state institute available on the ICOM website!
Technically, as long as the requirements of a RTI request are fulfilled, a letter should serve as a formal request just fine
The RTI Act outlines several stages in the RTI process. Progressing to a subsequent stage is voluntary and only applicable if the requested information was NOT received in the previous stage.
Each State Institute under the RTI Act must assign at least one Information Officer (IO) who is the first point of contact for RTI requests. The IO is responsible for:
Deadline: 21 days, which can be extended up to 14 additional days if the requested information is extensive and requires a lot of work
= MAXIMUM 35 DAYS
*if a request for information is made to save the life and liberty of a person, such information must be provided within 48 (forty eight) hours
Each institute under the RTI Act must set up a Review Committee (RC) consisting of at least 3 members of a higher rank than the IO. The RC is responsible for:
Deadline: 30 days, which can be extended up to 15 additional days if the requested information is extensive and requires a lot of work
= MAXIMUM 45 DAYS
*unlike the IO stage, there is no form to submit a complaint to the RC. Instead, a letter or email addressed to the RC can be submitted, with details of why the submission is being made, ideally with reference to the provisions of the Act which prescribe the disclosure of the requested information
Appointed by the President and approved by the Parliament, the Information Commissioner (ICOM) is the authority responsible for guaranteeing our constitutional Right to Information. An appeal can be made to ICOM if:
After an appeal or complaint has been lodged with ICOM, the case will be investigated and open hearings conducted to determine whether the decisions by the IO and RC of the State Institute were justified. If the requested information was withheld without a legitimate exempt clause specified in the Act, the ICOM will decide by which date the state authority must provide the requested information. Decisions of the ICOM are legally binding and failure to comply with the decision of the ICOM can result in legal action.
Deadline: 30 days, which can be extended up to 15 additional days if a decision regarding the case is unfinished for any reason
= MAXIMUM 45 DAYS
Where there is a party (either the information seeker or the state institute that received the RTI request) that is unsatisfied with the decision reached by the Information Commissioner, the party may appeal the matter to the High Court,
Deadline: 10 days from the date the decision was made or should have been made by the ICOM