Govt readies leash for RTI

DoPT rules await notification, will water down the landmark law

danish

Danish Raza | December 11, 2010




The going might get difficult for RTI applicants. The government has started the process of notifying the RTI rules. As per the new rules, each RTI application can have questions related to only one subject matter and the word limit is 250 words. This is excluding the address of the central public information officer and the address of the applicant.

Further, the applicant will be required to pay the actual amount spent by public authority on hiring a machine or any other equipment, if any, to supply information.

“There is no logic behind this word limit. It will become a problem for semi-literate people to draft an application in 250 words. It is like telling me that I can speak to you in these many words before I actually start speaking. This is something fudamentally erroneous,” said Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, access to information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. 

"As an alternative, there should be no word limit to the original RTI application. The public information officer can go through the application and in case he or she finds it very lengthy, can ask the applicant to prioritise the questions," he added.

Nikhil Dey of national campaign for people's right to information said, "This is against the very spirit of the act. The public authorities will surely misuse the word limit rule to reject the applications. This will act as a big deterrent."

Bibhav Kumar of the NGO Kabir said that the word limit rule went beyond the original RTI act which did not mention any word limit on RTI applications.

About postal charges, the rule says “in excess of rupees ten, if any, involved in supply of information, will be gven by the applicant.”

The rules are contained in the office memorandum circulated by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) on Friday (see file attached below).

The rules will override the RTI (regulation of fee and cost) rules, 2005 and the central information commission (appeal procedure) rules, 2005.

Also, appeals to the first appellate authority and the CIC will be made as per a given format.

You can comment on the proposed rules by sending an email at usrti-dovt@pic.in by December 27, 2010.

"It is a good thing that they have invited suggestions from civil society in accordance with Section4(1)(c) of the RTI Act. But the notification gets limited to only those who are Internet friendly and the two week's time for people to send comments, is, too short," said commodore L K Batra, RTI activist.
 

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