Cook bids trouble on RTI application

As Reported by Balwant Garg in TNN on 29 Feb 2008

BATHINDA: Seeking information from the district administration under Right to Information Act (RTI) has left a poor person in an awkward situation.
Instead of supplying him the information, the district administration here has summoned him for March 3 to explain the provision of the RTI Act under which information has been sought.

On February 2, Nachhatar Singh, a resident of Ganga village in Bathinda who works as a cook in a gurdwara, moved an application under RTI seeking information from the district administration about the functioning single-widow system (Suvidha centre) running at the mini-secretariat in Bathinda.

The Suvidha centre is run by Sukhmani Society, a body constituted by the district administration
for providing all sorts of documents, like driving licenses and arms licenses to the public after charging
a fee.

Instead of getting information, on February 22 he got a letter from the district administration asking him to appear before the district revenue officer, the deputed information officer under RTI Act, and explain the provision of the Act under which the information had been sought.

The letter was written on behalf of deputy commissioner, Bathinda. In the letter it has been conveyed to Nachhatar Singh that for providing required information, the members of Sukhmani Society can take legal action against the deputy commissioner, so the applicant (Nachhatar Singh) will have to explain under which provisions he be supplied the information.

"This is a quite interesting case when an applicant under the RTI Act is being summoned to explain the provisions of the law," said NK Jeet, a senior advocate in Bathinda and an expert on RTI Act.

Interestingly, in September 2007 the district administration had provided information under the RTI Act about the Suvidha center when Pritam Singh, a resident of Green Avenue, Bathinda, had approached the information officer.

"The only difference this time is that I am a poor person and sought the information without depositing any fee," said Nachhatar Singh, who has decided to move station information commissioner against this biased attitude of the information officer. Under RTI Act, any person living below poverty line can seek information without paying any fee.

Jatinder Singh, the district revenue officer cum district information officer, denied the allegation of showing biased attitude toward the poor man.

"The information sought by Nachhatar Singh was very vague, so he was summoned to explain about the information he demanded," he said.

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