1. I received a email from a member of this forum asking if a PIO (Person of
Indian Origin) card holder can make a application under the Right to Information Act.
The MHA website states that a PIO card holder shall have:
(iv) Parity with NRIs in respect of all facilities available to the later in the economic, financial and educational fields except in maters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/ plantation properties. No parity shall be allowed in the sphere of political rights.
(The spelling mistake is not mine, I just copied and pasted)
As per my understanding, RTI is not Economic, Financial or Educational. Neither is it Political right.
So can a PIO card holder use RTI ?
2. While we are on the subject, can members also clarify, if a OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) or a Dual Citizenship holder, can use RTI ?
The MHA website says about OCI:
(iii) Parity with Non resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational fields except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties. No parity shall be allowed in the sphere of political rights. Any other benefits to OCIs will be notified by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) under Section 7B(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Which is basically same as the PIO card holder's rights with the addition of "Any other benefits to OCIs will be notified by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) under Section 7B(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955."
I cannot understand your answer clearly.
Can you please elaborate and also give justifications for your interpretations so that other members can also read and opine.
Information under Section 4 of the Act has to be kept in Public Domain i.e. notice boards, websites etc. Information on the PA, the budget, plans, names and details of PIO etc. are covered under this section. This information can been seen by almost any body, even those who are not citizens of India. This means almost anybody come and seek information which are listed in this section.
Section 3 states that all Citizens of India have right to information.
Application for information which is not covered under Section 4 has to be requested under Section 6. This will include file notings, letters, correspondences, FAX messages, plans, reports etc. except those that fall under excemption category as listed in Section 8 & Schedule II. Majority of the information requested by us fall in this criteria. Only citizens can ask for this information.
I wanted a clarification whether PIO Card Holder and OCI can use the RTI ACT as much as a Indian Citizen.
To me, the answer is yes.
In any case, when anyone applies under the RTI Act 2005, he can do it in person or by post. If he looks like a Indian , who will ever ask him for proof of citizenship ?
No doubt, OCI qualifies to be citizen of India. Technically PIO Card Holders do not. PIO Card Holders would be citizens of another country. They may be individuals whose fore fathers were originally Indians. It would be difficult for these to get information under Section 6.
PIOs of Indian embassies are no fools. They are far better trained and well informed. They will ask for proof etc. Well if PIO Card Holders indeed manage to get information, I have nothing against that.
Regarding your query about who can or will ever ask him for proof of citizenship, any PIO, even those in India, who have doubts can demand proof of citizenship from any applicant. Most PIOs are polite and modest, so they dont ask. In case any PIO does ask, there is nothing in the act, that can stop him from doing so. The applicant will have to comply and provide the proof of citizenship.
I frankly think such a rstriction in the letter of the law is pretty meaningless and I have several reasons to do so:
1. more and more Indians are taking up citizenships of other countries, becoming OCIs and then residing in India. If application comes from within India - not a whole lot of PIOs are likely to seek proof of citizenship. Many of these OCIs will have a birth certificate from India too and not many will have passports (the only document which authentically proves your citizenship)
2. It will not be difficult to find a "citizen" to file a request on a non-citizen's behalf to get the necessary information.
3. Since most of "security" related info is exempt from RTI anyways - it does not make much sense to block remainder of the information.
4. Resident non-citizens who also pay taxes have as much a vested interest in efficient functioning of govt. as with citizens.
This is one piece of law I think comes out of typical "babu" style of thinking. It is high time we realize we are fast becoming a global society. A comparable FOIA in the US does not need you to be a US citizen. I am not familiar with any other similar acts in other countries - may be others can elaborate.
It is high time we realize we are fast becoming a global society. A comparable FOIA in the US does not need you to be a US citizen. I am not familiar with any other similar acts in other countries - may be others can elaborate.
Except on the part that a passport "the only document which authentically proves your citizenship" in Point 1, rest of your points 1 to 4 are correct. Kindly check The Citizenship Act 1955 for more details.
A recent survey in US showed that over 90% of printed papers are discarded the same day it was printed, even though very few printing takes places. Most of the communications are either vocal through voice mail or digital. As such, less of Government money is used in such countries. On the contrary, India is different. For each copy of communication printed and signed for despatch, there are at least half a dozen copies printed as file copy, Head Of Office Copy, Accounts Section Copy, DFA etc. You have to change this office procedure first.
Further, you may be paying Rs.2/- for each copy of printed paper you receive under the RTI Act. However, the Government itself would be spending Rs.200/- behind each paper in "that" file. So its no point in comparing other countries and their laws with that of India.