In an order that could make filing of Right To Information (RTI) applications easier, the Central Information Commission has asked the department of post to issue RTI stamps of Rs. 10 denomination and open separate counters for accepting the applications at its 1.5 lakh post offices.
A three-member bench headed by chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra has issued a series of directions to the government, after complaints that public information officers were turning down applications on flimsy grounds.
An RTI applicant, Subhash Chandra Agarwal, was not allowed entry into home ministry’s office at Jaisalmer House on the ground that the payment for accessing the information sought can be deposited only at North Block office of the ministry.
Advocate RK Jain told the bench RTI applications were sometimes turned down because a postal order is not properly stamped or its value exceeds R10, the RTI fees.
He also said visitors were not informed by postal officials that they can also deposit RTI applications with post offices.
Agreeing that information seekers face problems in depositing RTI fees and photo-copying charges, the CIC made eight recommendations to the government for implementation.
The commission directed the postal department to ensure separate counters are set up at post offices for accepting RTI applications.
“The fees along with the application should be accepted at the same counter and in no case the applicant should be made to visit another counter for depositing the requisite fee,” the order reads.
It also wanted the department to issue RTI stamps of R10 denomination to ease RTI fee payment. “It would be a time and cost effective step,” the commission said.
In addition, the CIC asked the government to instruct all information officers that they will have to accept postal orders, demand drafts or banker cheques payable to their accounts officers.
“No instruction shall be returned by any officer of the public authority on the ground that it has not been drawn in the name of a particular officer,” the order said.
The commission also directed the information officers to accept RTI fees or copying charges in cash from applicants, as it was a cost effective mechanism. The government spends R22 on cashing a postal order of Rs. 10.