Chandigarh, January 20
The Right to Information Rules, 2007, notified by the Punjab government last year has a section of rights activists and legal experts up in arms on the contention that the rules contravene the very provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which they are supposed to implement.
The rules, circulated to all departments recently, make seeking information a tough task and provide grounds for rejection of RTI requests which go beyond the provisions of the Act and complicate the process for obtaining information, they claim.
Under Sections 8 and 9 of the Act, information may not be provided on grounds such as security, breach of court orders or breach of commercial confidence.
Form-E introduced under the Punjab Rules, however, provides that in addition to the aforesaid sections of the Act requests fro information can also be rejected on grounds such as “unsatisfactory identity” of the information seeker, information already available in published material, information available on website and a vague premise called “any
“The Act does not provide for rejection of information requests on any of these grounds,” a local lawyer claimed. “Introducing such provisions is detrimental to the interest of the public,” he further added.
Further, Rule 3 (4) of the Punjab Rules state that information not accompanied by the requisite fee would be rejected straightaway without any notice to the applicant.
This rule, lawyers contend, is also contradictory to Section 7 (3) of the Act which ordains that the public information officer concerned shall inform the applicant to deposit more fee in case of insufficient fee.
The Punjab government has also introduced a form for seeking information, whereas the Section 6 of the RTI Act does not provide for any such form and simply states that information can be sought on a simple paper or electronic application with just the contact address of the applicant.
Punjab government’s prescribed Form-A, on the other hand, seeks information on nine queries from the RTI Applicant before the application can be processed. “The form also expects an applicant to first browse the website of the concerned department or research through published material before seeking information otherwise the application can be rejected,” a lawyer said. “The Act nowhere confers power on a state government to frame rules prescribing reasons for rejection of a form since these subjects are covered by the Act itself,” he contended.
Punjab government officials, on the other hand maintain that the Rules were framed under provisions of Section 27 (1) of the Act and the state can frame rules it deems appropriate to streamline the functioning of its departments.
If the RTI activists in Punjab think of inspecting all the files and connected file notings, in respect of the suddenly changed rules, they may probably be able to go into the root cause of this matter as well as get reasons under Section 4(1)(d).
Panel issues notice to Punjab Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 25
In response to the activists raising objections over the RTI Rules, notified recently by the Punjab government, a full Bench of the Punjab Information Commission has issued notice to the Secretary of Administrative Reforms department asking it to reply to the issues raised in this regard.
A complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act had been filed on the issue by Capt Navdeep Singh, a high court lawyer, in which it had been averred that Punjab RTI Rules 2007 framed by the state government were in direct contravention of the Act.
The rules, circulated to all departments recently, make seeking information a tough call and complicate the process for obtaining information, which was detrimental to the interest of the public and defeat the purpose of the act, the complainant contended.
The state government rules provide reasons of rejection, which go beyond the Act, according to the complaint. Form--E of the Punjab Rules provides that information requests can be rejected on grounds that the information was available on department’s website, information was already available in published material and the identity of the information seeker was not satisfactory.
The Punjab government had further notified that RTI requests could only be made in on a prescribed form, a stipulation, which contravened Section 6 of the Act under which RTI requests could be made on plain paper or electronically.
The form prescribed by the government seeks answers from RTI applicants on 9 questions before it could be processed by the PIO concerned. The Rules also expect all information seekers to first browse the website of the concerned department before information was sought from it and prohibit the dissemination of information under the RTI if it was already available on the internet.
The commission directed that before coming up with a reply on the complaint, the Secretary Administrative Reforms should apply its mind and consider the points raised in the complaint, especially portions inconsistent with the act.
The RTI Act is common all over India - for Centre, for States, for Supreme/High Courts, For Parliament/Legislatures.
Depending on the Public Authority you are sending your application to, your RTI Application will be governed by RTI Rules of the centre, state, court, legislature. These are different in each situation.
The Punjab state Government rules that you refer to have been amended (as mentioned in the news report at the start of this thread). Unfortunately, I cannot locate them anywhere on the web. You will have to get them personally from some department in Chandigarh or the Punjab Information Commission.
(If you can get a copy for scanning and then put it up here, it will be a big help)
Please follow the rules strictly.
The application fee is to be paid with the RTI application.
In case you have asked for photocopies, etc, then the PIO will reply to you with a reasoned order, giving the additional fees to be paid as well as the details of the calculations used to arrive at the figure.
Thanks a lot for your reply.. I checked the site again.It mentions that these rules/fee on website is in accordance to Right to Information Rules, 2007 which repeals Punjab Right to Information Rules 2006
Are you saying that Punjab gov has amended the rules of Right to Information Rules, 2007 which they have not updated anywhere ?. but the news article also mentions about 2007 act only..
And from your reply i can make it out that I should send the first application with initial fee of 10 rs (or pb gov applicable) with my request to photocopiy and then they will reply me about the money required ...
Plz correct me if i am wrong