Multiple queries in single RTI application frustrate authority: DoPT

DoPT says this and more in its justification for rejecting NAC's advice on proposed changes

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Danish Raza | January 25, 2011



The department of personnel and training (DoPT) will go ahead with most of the provisions contained in the draft RTI rules which were put on its website in December last.

Documents available with Governance Now show that the DoPT has rejected the recommendations of national advisory council (NAC) on ‘one subject matter’ and ‘250 words per application’- rules which were met with lot of opposition from the civil society and the NAC.

The NAC wanted this provision deleted from the act considering that it would make drafting of the RTI query difficult especially for the applicants who were semi- literate.

Rejecting the proposal, the DoPT said, “Apprehensions that people who are not well educated may not be able to write an application within 250 words is without any basis insamuch as long applications are made by the people who are well educated and who try to seek explanation etc instead of seeking information as defined in the act.”

It further added that as per the act, the applicant could take the assistance of the public information officer in drafting the request.

The DoPT has added an entirely new dimension to the ‘one subject matter’ debate. It has said that since, the act requires one public authority to transfer the RTI application to another public authority to which the queries are closely related, there is a provision of one subject matter in the act itself. Also, the singular form used in the act, according to DoPT, suggests that the act requires an application to have request on one subject only.

Interestingly, on December 27, DoPT circulated an office memorandum to all the ministries/ departments of the government asking them to comment on the draft rules in general and on the issue of one subject and word limit of 250 words in particular. The move came after there was intense public outcry over these two rules that had been proposed.

“Many a times it becomes difficult even to ascertain as to who should deal with the application. It not only results in delay in reply to the application, it also creates frustration amongst the officers within a public authority,” commented DoPT.

The department has also justified draft rule 16 which says that the proceedings pending with the commission shall abate on the death of the appellant. Critisising the rule, NAC had said that it would encourage murder of the RTI applicants.  However, equating the rule with the provision in civil procedure code, DoPT said, “RTI is the right of the individual (citizen) who makes the application and, thereafter, appeal. His right vanishes with his death.”

The recommendation to give a free hand to the information commissions to select staff, has also been rejected. The respective draft rule says that the government shall appoint an officer not below the rank of additional secretary as the chief executive officer of the commission.

The DoPT has accepted NAC proposal of charging the applicant where the postal charges of sending the information would exceed Rs 50. The draft rule had put the figure at Rs 10.

The government has also found sense in the comments on filing first appeal in a given format as required by the draft rule 7. “Provide that no appeal would be rejected if it was not in the given format but contained all the information required,” NAC had proposed.

On December 10 last year, the DoPT had put draft rules on its website. It gave the civil society 17 days to comment on the same.

On December 13 and 22, the NAC working group on transparency, accountability and governance und held discussions with the civil society to take their feedback on the draft rules.

Subsequently, NAC submitted a set of recommendations to the DoPT.

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