Getting information out of government bodies under the RTI law may get tougher and pricier. The government has drawn up a proposal for a overhaul of Right to Information rules, empowering public information officers to reject outright applications longer than 250 words and raising questions on more than one subject.
The amendments - which would enable people to make online payments - also require applicants to pay the postage charges if it costs more than Rs 10 and the actual amount spent by public authorities on hiring a machine or any other equipment to supply the information.
The draft rules - put out for a public discussion - is the first attempt to make the law easier on public officials after an earlier proposal to push amendments to the RTI Act that would empower officials to reject frivolous information requests had to be put away.
"At this rate, people will have to take language lessons on concise writing before they can ask the government any questions," said Arvind Kejriwal, RTI campaigner who had won the Magsaysay award for his efforts.
Kejriwal said the proposed rule violated the spirit of the RTI Act that required public information officers to assist people to put their requests in writing.
"The law recognised the reality of India - that one-third of the population could not read or write an alphabet," he said, complaining the rules only addressed the bureaucracy's concerns.
Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, however, suggested the rule was a response to instances of applications running into a dozen page and more.
The Central Information Commission had, however, objected to the rule restricting an application to one subject only, saying this could be interpreted by officials to suit themselves and reject requests.
"The focus of the rules is to put hurdles rather than help applicants."