The thought of filing an RTI application in a typical sarkari office may have deterred you from using your right. Soon, there will be an alternative that is close to your home and less bureaucratic. Your neighbourhood post office.
The Central Information Commission has asked the government to tell all ministries to notify post masters as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs), assigned with the duty to receive the application and forwarding it to its destination. "We have asked Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to ensure that the ministries notify post offices as centres to receive applications," Chief Information Commission of India, Wahajahat Habibullah told the HT.
The arrangement to make post offices as nodal offices to receive RTI applications was already there but most of the central government ministries were reluctant to notify them as APIOs.
It was primarily because of two reasons. First, that it would increase the workload of handling RTI applications. Second, there was a dispute over how much money post offices should charge to provide the service. The post offices are charging Rs 10, which is given as RTI application fee as charges for accepting and mailing the application whereas the CIC says it has no claim over RTI application fee.
To find a solution to the problem, Habibullah has suggested that post offices can charge a nominal amount of Rs 10 over and above the RTI application fee per application. In addition to this, he has asked DoPT to issue instructions to all central government ministries to notify post offices for receiving applications.
So far, Goa is the state that has notified 433 post offices as RTI offices. There, the duty of the APIOs is to send the application to the Central Principal Information Officer of the concerned ministry. Some states have also notified a few post offices but most of the ministries are yet to conduct the exercise.
The CIC has itself gone a step ahead. It has started receiving appeals against government departments under the RTI Act through email and is getting good response.