I feel some more emphasis should be given on how to draft the Application requesting 'information' from the Public Authority, under RTI Act. A poorly drafted or technically defective Application is likely to defeat the very purpose - or at least delay it.
It is true that there can be no generic proforma because circumstances would widely differ in individual case. However some guidelines can be be compiled, because a well drafted Application is half the job done. I feel in many cases the request for information is not clear enough or the CPIO/PIO take advantage of technical/procedural loopholes.
I try to start the list:
(1) 'Information' is distinct from 'Question', though a slight manipulation of language can turn the each into the other. RTI Act cover 'Information' but not 'Questions' or 'Opinions'. For example:
Question: Whether is true that an amount of Rs. $$$ received under scheme XXX was fraudelently disbursed to some individuals.
Information: Please provide me a list of all beneficiaries, along with the amount disbursed to each of them, of the funds received under scheme XXX.
(2) Information should exist in some material form (on file, computer, etc) in the possession/control of Public Authority. It is in the interest of speedy response, applicant should indicate the probable holder of the information (concerned department/section/officer) in case of a large organisation.
(3) There may be cases where the Public Authority do not maintain the information properly, though it is supposed to do so. For example, (a) total number of requests received (b) requests accepted for fulfilling the required criteria (c) reasons for rejecting the remaining requests. Such things generally happen in organisation engaged in large public dealings (for example a bank accepting or rejecting loan applications).
(4) It may not be a good idea to request for unnecessarily volumenous information just because one can do so. However, this should not defeat the purpose of seeking information.
(5) When that nature of information required or possible holder of information is not clear, inspection of records may be resorted to, to exactly identify what is required.
(6) One should be prepared that not all CPIO/PIO would be willing to help and properly guide the applicant in obtaining the information, even though it is his/her duty. A typical officer in a govt. office (CPIO/PIO) will view a new application under RTI Act as an additional burden (for which he will not get any extra pay). As a result, he/she will try to discourage the applicant from filing the application (like the Police discourage filing of FIR), because it will add to his/her (already excess) 'workload' (?). So, be ready to insist on your right to file application under RTI Act. Threat to quote his/her name if refuse to receive the application.
(7) One should not go by oral conversations that can not be proved. Under RTI Act, let everything be in writing. Govt. official is very expert in misleading you when he can not be held responsible, but when his name and handwriting is involved, he won't dare to lie. This is as true about CPIO/PIO as well.
OK, let us improve this list together.