Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi wanted India’s poorest who invoke the transparency law to pay up for the information “beyond a certain number of pages”.
Modi – now the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate – had made the suggestion in September 2005 to ensure the rich did not misuse the free-for-poor provision in the Right to Information Act (RTI).
The Centre introduced the provision to exempt persons belonging to Below Poverty Line families from paying any fee for getting information under the transparency law.
The CM’s three-page letter of 11 September 2005 — the law came into force a month later — is part of the 793-page RTI files made public last week as part of pro-active disclosures by the Department of Personnel & Training on the Central Information Commission directive, issued on an appeal filed by Hindustan Times.
“It is mentioned in the Act that the purpose of acquiring information will not be asked from the applicant. There is, therefore, a definite possibility that anyone wanting to get voluminous information from the government will take the route of a BPL family to avoid payment of even the cost of stationary,” the chief minister said.
Modi went on to give his prescription in his not-so-publicised letter.
“We need to plug this loop-hole by putting a limit of certain number of pages of information which can be given free to members of BPL families and charging them for additional pages required,” he wrote.
He also hinted at the need for a bar on government employees seeking information relating to personnel issues, particularly those relating to confidential records and promotions.
“Unless a specific exemption is made for personnel information, the (RTI) Act is likely to be misused by various employees by taking a route of citizen seeking information,” he added.
Modi’s rule that could have barred Indians below the starvation line from invoking the information law never came into force.