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Monday, October 26, 2009

A question under RTI can be worth Rs 7 lakh

TNN 26 October 2009, 04:40am IST

LUCKNOW: Government departments have evolved numerous ways to refuse information under the RTI Act. One of them being asking hefty fee for providing
the information
It happened with an applicant Saleem Baig, who had sought information about the homeguards in the state. All he received in response from the homeguards headquarters was the demand of Rs 7,68,284 for providing the information.

The applicant received two letters within ten days, asking him that he needed to deposit the quoted amount of money first and then only information could be provided to him. The first letter dated September 15 had asked a sum of Rs 40,000 for providing the information.

The second one, dated September 25, had asked for Rs 7,68,284 for the same information. The content of the two letters is same but the amount of money differs. "The information sought by you is of wider nature and in order to obtain it a big amount of money will have to be deposited," read the letters.

The information was sought on six points ranging from district-wise postings of homeguards, number of days that they have been put on duty in different districts and if the homeguards have been paid as per the duty chart etc.

"I have not been told why such a huge amount is being charged and how many annexures will the information comprise of," said Baig.

The letter informed the applicant that he can deposit the money on any working day. The day he does so he will be provided the information sought by him.

But the letter has violated the provisions of the RTI Act. The Act has clarified that in case of annexures, an applicant will have to provide Rs 2 per copy. Besides, if the PIO is asking for the extra fee, he will have to inform the applicant that why is he is doing so and how many annexures will be provided to the applicant. It was not done in Baig's case.

Secondly, the public information officer can not ask for extra money if he is responding to the RTI application after the 30 days deadline. In this case, the application was made on July 22 but it was transferred from one department to another. The 30-day deadline had already crossed when the applicant got the response.

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