The bureaucracy is determined to make you pay for your right to information (RTI), literally.
Documents released under the transparency law reveal that the government has been planning to make people pay to file appeals since 2009. So far, RTI applicants only have to pay a fee of Rs. 10 for filing applications. If the information request is denied, they are entitled to appeal against the decision, initially to the designated officer of a public authority concerned, and later, the Central Information Commission (CIC). They do not have to pay for the appeals.
Documents released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the RTI, however, show that the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) had sought approval to make people pay Rs. 10 every time they want to challenge denial of information.
The PMO, which objected to the move to impose a 100-word limit on applications, did not red flag this move.
The proposal – which was quietly dropped in 2010 – resurfaced this year when DoPT floated its proposal to set up a call centre to enable applications to be filed over the phone and online.
The blueprint for the call centre released in May required private parties to keep a provision in the system to collect a fee from those who challenge a public authority’s decision. It noted that the existing rules did not permit this fee but wanted the option for the future.
“This means the officials have set their eyes on introducing appeal fee, sooner or later,” Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra who got the PMO’s file under RTI told HT.
Batra recalled how DoPT also wanted to use the call centre to restrict the electronic system from accepting information requests relating to more than two public authorities in a single application. DoPT put this stipulation on hold after the HT highlighted the attempt to use technology to dilute the right to information.