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Scrutiny
 
RTI: FEES HIKE
Now, your rights face inflation!
New RTI rules introduced by the Chhattisgarh government come across as blatant misuse of power and undermine the very essence of the act
Issue Date - 01/03/2012
 
Once again, the much hyped Right to Information Act (RTI) has returned to the headlines. And this time, it is due to the outrageous hike in RTI fees by the Chhattisgarh government. While all states charge Rs.10 as fee and Rs.2 per print page of the RTI response, Chhattisgarh has increased the fees to Rs.500 and Rs.15 per print copy. The main reason cited is reduction of frivolous applications (interestingly, official sources have stated that the number of applications filed in Chhattisgarh since RTI got enforced is just around 50!). Furthermore, they have made it mandatory to cite reasons for filling applications, restricted the number of queries per applicant to one and also limited the word count to 150. The move has been taken after the Karnataka government took a similar step in 2008 with respect to number of queries and word count and the UP government hiked RTI application fees.

This fee hike would deprive people who seek information especially at a time when the Chhattisgarh government is undertaking face saving measures in the light of the paddy procurement scam. The Central government has given the power to revise fees. But as per sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) & (5) of section 7, “The fee shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate government.”

Globally, most governments provide information freely. UK only charges the cost of disbursements including photocopying & postage while, in the US there is no charge unless the cost exceeds $250. This act by the Chhattisgarh government seriously undermines the rights of the poor. Also, if RTI in any state is governed by such illogical pre-conditions that only serve to breed suspicion & distrust, the act loses its very meaning.

 

Akram Hoque           

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