Our information-hungry state witnesses the highest number of Right to Information (RTI) queries from citizens. The state government, in an affidavit filed before the Bombay high court, revealed that Maharashtra receives the highest number of applications under the RTI Act. The affidavit was filed in response to a public interest litigation challenging a recent insertion of a rule under the Act, which limits the size of queries filed under the act.
The petition, filed by advocate Shivaji Kshirsagar, challenges the insertion of rule 3A, through a notification of January 16, 2012, under the Maharashtra Right to Information Rules. The rule says a person seeking information under the Act shall limit it to one subject matter, which shall not ‘ordinarily’ exceed 150 words. If the applicant seeks information on more than one subject, s/he has to file separate applications.
The rule further directs the public information officer (PIO) to deal with only the first subject matter, in the event of queries on multiple subjects. The petitioner argued that such a rule would deprive citizens. A division bench of justice DD Sinha and justice VK Tahilramani had asked the government to explain the reasoning behind the rule.
The affidavit, filed by the joint secretary of the General Administration Department, Rashid Sayyed, said the amendment was made to streamline the procedure for seeking information. Sayyed said a plain reading of the amendment shows that there is no imposition on the word limit, and only implies that the application should be precise.
The petition also contends that the amendment would cause harassment to citizens, as it gives the PIO discretionary powers that could be used to deny information. The affidavit said the amendment was made to facilitate the procedure, and not to harass citizens.