The RTI Act 2005 was gifted by the wise men and women of parliament to the people of India. Little did they apprehend at that time that the people will turn wiser and start using the RTI Act in a manner not comfortable to the people of the power corridors of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Then those wise men and women started inventing newest methods to blunt the edge and slow poison the RTI Act.
The Himachal Pradesh govt. invented the most innovated method to achieve the purpose of frustrating the RTI applicants by burdening the State Information Commission with other responsibilities not relating to RTI Act. The section 7 of newly enacted Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 mandates that the State Information Commission will be the second appellate authority for this Act.
This decision of the Himachal Legislature is astonishing because they have interfered with the smooth working of the RTI Act 2005 by burdening the State Information Commission with work other than the RTI related appeals and complaints. It will cause delay in the disposal of the RTI appeals and complaints and that is exactly what the govt. wants to achieve. More the appeals and complaints are delayed more the purpose of the RTI Act gets defeated. Imagine a person getting information after 2 years by exhausting all the channels up to State Information Commission. What will the use of that information.
The same way the Himachal Pradesh Govt. levied the postal charges on the RTI Applicants. The RTI Act 2005 clearly mentions the charges to be levied. Therefore the State cannot make any such rule which goes against the spirit of the Act.
Therefore I have filed a petition with the Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, who is the nodal officer of the RTI Act 2005 and highlighted the issues relating to the above said matter. Here it is:
23rd May, 2012.
The Secretary Personnel and Training,
New Delhi 110001.
Subject:- Right To Information Act—Confusion in Himachal Pradesh.
Kind Attention:- Sh. P.K. Misra, I.A.S.
May I inform you that strange things are happening in Himachal Pradesh w.r.t. The Right To Information Act. Following are the glaring examples which indicate that the State Govt. is not acting in a way to promote the Act but its acts are certainly aimed at to retard the pace of the Act :-
1. Govt. of Himachal Pradesh has recently inacted the Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 and as per the section 7 of the said Act, The State Information Commission is made the Second Appelate Authority of Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2011. This is an act of grave illegality on the part of the State Government, because, The State Information Commissions are created along with the Central Information Commission due to the inactment of Right To Information Act 2005. As per the RTI Act 2005 the Central Information Commission and different State Information Commissions are assigned specific functions as per the provisions of the RTI Act and they are supposed to perform those earmarked duties. The decision of the Himachal State Govt. to make the State Information Commission as second appellate authority for The Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 is illegal and beyond its jurisdiction.
2. The Himachal State Govt. has recently effected an amendment in its RTI Rules and allowed the levying of postal charges for supplying the information to the information seekers. This is beyond the scope of the provisions of the RTI Act 2005. In the main Act the charges are specifically mentioned and it is categorical that no postal charges can be levied on the information seekers. It is disheartening and demoralizing for the common people for whom this Act is made. The role of the Govt. should be to encourage the people to use the RTI Act and not to discourage them by effecting discouraging amendments. If this trend is allowed to be continued a time may come when the state govts. may fix the RTI application fee as Rs. 100/- and per page charges as Rs.50/- per page.
On the basis of the above mentioned narration you are requested to take following action in the capacity of the Secretary of the nodal agency department of RTI Act 2005:-
1. Issue directions to the Himachal Pradesh Govt. to withdraw its decision to appoint the State Information Commission as second appellate authority for Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 and allow the State Information Commission to perform its duties relating to RTI Act only. Otherwise , within few more months there will be a creation of huge backlog of appeals and complaints in the State information Commission thereby defeating the basic purpose of the RTI Act 2005.
2. Issue directions to the Himachal Pradesh Govt. to withdraw its decision to levy postal charges on the RTI applicants and stick to the fee and other charges plan of the RTI Act 2005.
3. The Himachal Pradesh govt. should be further directed to not to make any such rules which either goes against the spirit of the RTI Act2005 or violates any existing provision of the Act.
Dev Ashish Bhattacharya
B 5 ; Pocket 7 ; Block 54,
Sector 82 ; Noida
Uttar Pradesh 201 304
Copy to: 1. The Ho’nble Governor Of Himachal Pradesh for information and necessary action please.
2. The Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh with a request to take up the issue with the Chief Minister and the members of the state cabinet for the suitable necessary action.