The Uttarakhand government has refused to entertain a Jodhpur-based student’s RTI application on the ground that “only Indian citizens” are provided information under the transparency law, official documents showed.
The bizarre incident comes just a few days after the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of the legislation, enacted to bring in transparency and accountability in government and governance.
The applicant, Abhijay Negi, is a resident of Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun and is based in the Rajasthan city where he is a student of the prestigious National Law University.
Negi, an activist who had earlier flagged several issues regarding his home state, had sought information on the progress of the government’s action plan to revive the Dehradun’s twin rivers -- Bindal and Rispana.
The reply from the state’s chief information commissioner – written in Hindi and dated October 19 – categorically stated that any information under the RTI Act, 2005 could only be provided to Indian citizens. HT has a copy of the reply.
“Does it suggest that Jodhpur is part of a foreign nation? Instead of sharing details, officials explore ways to harass applicant as they know outstation applicants have limited options,” Negi said when contacted over phone.
Sources said it was after Negi’s earlier intervention that chief minister Harish Rawat had asked the irrigation department to initiate a project for reviving the dying rivers.
Section 8 of the RTI Act gives government officials several reasons to deny information, including citing official secrets and queries from other nations.
However, Negi said, some officials “give odd reasons beyond section 8 provisions” to reject applications.
“Only last month, the Dehradun office of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development asked me to furnish identity proof and also asked why I had posted the RTI application from a different location and why not from Jodhpur. What it has to do with query?” he asked.
Calls made to the CIC for his comments went unanswered.
Surendra Kumar, the spokesperson for the chief minister, expressed surprise at the “strange incident” when HT sought his reaction.
“I think there is a need for higher officials to ask concerned information officers to go through the RTI Act thoroughly. Our government is committed to transparency and we will make sure that it is practiced at all level,” he said.
RTI activist Gurvinder Singh Chadha said there was a growing tendency to reject applications particularly those seeking information on activities, development works or related to funding pattern.
“Often applicants have to pursue their cases to the next level with the appellate authorities. It takes time and energy and several leave the fight midway,” he added.