RTI fee may be scrapped
By Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 26.01.08
A PARLIAMENTARY committee has decided to recommend scrapping of fees at the time of filing applications seeking information from government departments under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The decision of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Grievances And Personnel has been welcomed by the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah, and by RTI activists. The parliamentary committee headed by Dr E.M. Sudarasna Natchiappan, has said scrapping of fees at the initial stage would help in effective implementation of the two-year old law.
"The technicality of admitting an application only on receiving a fee of Rs 10 is undermining such a revolutionary law. We feel that there was an urgent need to do away with this step which reflected a bureaucratic mindset," Natchiappan told HT.
He said the committee had studied the RTI Act's successful implementation at the Chennai Petroleum Corporation, which was not charging fees at the time of filing applications. The applicants were asked to deposit the fees and other costs only if they were furnished the desired information, Natchiappan added.
The standing committee felt there was a need to introduce greater transparency in dealing with RTI applications, as the majority of concerned officials were hesitant to part with information.
The panel also favoured a more practical implementation of the RTI Act in armed forces. It has said they should provide more information to the applicants, majority of whom were employees, seeking details of their service matters.
Habibullah has welcomed the parliamentary committee's decision seeking scrapping of the fees at the initial stage. "This is a welcome recommendation, which would encourage more people to make use of the RTI. Though costs are involved in providing information, the applicants should be asked to deposit money when they get their replies," he said.
The CIC said it was important for government departments to make it easy for applicants seeking information, rather than making it difficult through tough procedures.
Noted RTI activist Nikhil De, while welcoming the recommendation, cautioned that there was a need for having some sort of a record with the applicant to keep his process alive.
nagendar.sharma [@] hindustantimes.com