Welcome HC order on Abuse of RTI Act: Lack of RTI knowledge at all levels
It refers to significant judgement dated 19.01.2016 of Delhi High Court in WP(C) 406/2016 imposing fine of rupees 25000 on a petitioner having challenged a CIC-verdict dated 30.10.2015 clubbing thirteen petitions. Detailed HC judgement has cited one of the thirteen petitions dated 18.02.2014 which is apparently much-much more than 500 words. Delhi High Court deserves all praise for deciding the matter so quickly.
Lack of knowledge at all levels is also evident when none dealing with RTI petition (including even the then Chief Information Commissioner having given the verdict) cited a gazette-notification dated 31.07.2012 which restricted a word-limit of 500 words in an RTI petition. The then Chief Information Commissioner was also known for giving non-speaking decision-part, sometimes months after the hearing surprisingly with no file-notings on record! It is impossible for any Commissioner to recall proceedings held months before date of decision.
Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) should arrange massive training-programmes by experts for handling RTI petitions to avoid wastage of man-hours of public-authorities in handling RTI petitions of frivolous vexatious and nuisance nature, and providing proper replies to genuine RTI petitions where some public-authorities are known for abuse of RTI Act by misuse of section 6(3) of RTI Act in transferring an RTI petition uselessly to hundreds/thousands of departments. Problem can be further tackled by raising RTI fess to rupees fifty which may include cost of first twenty copied pages thus giving material worth rupees fifty even in the increased fees. It will not only discourage tendency to file useless RTI petitions, but also largely save man-hours and postage both for public-authorities and the petitioner. Compilation of DoPT circulars on RTI should be an annual feature like was once done in the year 2013.
Considering high cost of rupees 37.45 in handling postal-orders usually used for mode of payment of RTI fees, DoPT should ask Department of Posts to issue attractive RTI stamps in denominations of rupees 2, 10 and 50 like earlier Radio & TV license fees stamps, which will also act as a publicity-tool for RTI Act.
Subhash Chandra Agarwal is a Guiness record holder and RTI Activist.