Some RTI applications are written in such a way that they forewarn the public authority against giving information. They tell the public information officer (PIO) which documents to hide or deny, and why – and that is the main reason for their failure to procure information.
Other applications are so vague that it is impossible for a even a well-meaning PIO to realistically fulfill their demands. No matter how the PIO responds, it is clear at the very outset that the matter will go into appeal.
Some failure-prone applications are written because of simple ignorance and lack of understanding of how Right to Information Act works. Others are written because the RTI applicant is driven by bad habits, ego and unwillingness to change his ways.
I know many activists who are driven by psychological reasons and inner compulsions. I confess that when I look within, I see that many of my own past and present behaviors are motivated by psychological pressures that are not entirely rational and sane. Let us always be willing to introspect and self-correct.
5 psychological reasons:
1.The activist has not accepted and internalized the spirit of Section 6(2) of RTI Act, “An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.” And therefore, he feels compelled from within to give justifications and establish his own locus standi by talking about the overall problem and repeatedly highlighting his own outstanding role in solving it. (He has to focus on how to write his RTI application without justifying his action of asking for the information in any manner.)
2.The activist writes in the heat of the moment, and shoots the first draft without revising it or taking advice from fellow-activists. Or he is ego-driven, in love with his own writings and unwilling to make corrections. He obstinately attends every appeal hearing and energetically protests every appellate authority’s orders, but is unwilling to introspect and self-correct.
3.Deep down inside, the activist believes that the RTI application is really a way of making a complaint and fighting for grievance redressal. He actually does not want information; he wants to use the forums of first and second appeal to voice his grievances before higher authorities, or to enter into a direct dialogue with them. Sometimes, he doesn’t want the confrontations to ever end, because they give him a reason go on living and fighting against authorities. Sometimes, his real problems are with his family and his neighbors, but instead, he continually fights a proxy battle with public authorities.
4.The activist is not intellectually clear. He does not make a distinction between asking for information and demanding an explanation. Quite often, activists habitually think in terms of “holding the authorities answerable”, and “showing public servants who is their real boss” by asking tough questions that cannot be answered with facts and figures. Some activist groups have a mindset of demanding justifications and explanations, and not facts, figures and documents. (In order to come out
of this mindset, the activist must think about how to file an RTI
application that only requires information i.e. records and documents,
and not requiring the PIO to make arguments and justifications to defend the actions of the public authority.)
5. The activist wrongly believes that his RTI application is read and replied by the head of the public authority, and not the public information officer. He imagines that the RTI application is really going to the chief of the public authority, and therefore, he feels that even if his application is not suitably answered, it is making a difference at the policy level by “forcing decision-makers to think”. Such activists may even imagine that their application, letters etc. are continually being discussed in all the offices of the public authority, and especially the chief’s. (The remedy is to remember while drafting an RTI application that it is addressed to a PIO who is quite low in the hierarchy, and will never be seen by any of the higher-ups, leave alone the head of the public authority. Therefore, he must only ask for copies of the relevant records and documents, which is all that the PIO has authority to give.)