Dealing with high pendency of RTI applications

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/14/2019 12:30:00 AM

Dear Editor,
It refers to 14th annual convention of Central Information Commission (CIC) held at Vigyan Bhawan (New Delhi) on 12.10.2019 where Union Home Minister Amit Shah and DoPT Minister Dr Jitender Singh both stressed for an ideally transparent system where filing of RTI application may not be needed at all. It is certainly true because a study reveals that even complete compliance of section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act regarding suo-motto disclosure of all the listed seventeen parameters can bring down number of RTI applications by about 60-percent. A later DoPT circular dated 15.04.2013 widens scope of sue-motto disclosure still more. But practically this has not been possible even 14 years after implementation of RTI Act in the year 2005. A DoPT circular issued in the year 2014 in NDA regime required publishing all RTI applications and their responses on website with a hope that people may go through earlier RTI responses given to other applicants in a bid to be more transparent. But this is also of no use because it is not practically possible to go through every RTI response before filing an RTI application. Therefore practically need of filing RTI applications presently cannot be reduced.
Both the ministers also cautioned, and rightly too, against unnecessary burdening public-resources through misuse of RTI Act, highlighting introduction of on-line filing of RTI applications in NDA regime. Issue of use of RTI Act for redressal of public-grievance was also raised in the inaugural session of the convention. Best remedies to all the issues involved are:
l Legislate Grievance Redressal Act on lines of RTI Act
l RTI responses on RTI applications filed on-line and resolution of submissions filed on various portals like CPGRAMS etc should be e-mailed also without requiring to visit websites
l There should be uniformity in RTI fees and mode of payment of RTI fees etc to include copying-charges of first twenty copied pages to make basis RTI fees at rupees 50 as fixed to be maximum by Supreme Court to avoid time and money in demanding and remitting copying charges by public-authorities and applicants, and also to check misuse of RTI Act because of negligible RTI fees of just rupees ten fixed fourteen years back. Cost of all government-fees and services has increased manifolds in last 14 years. Therefore there is no logic in opposing RTI fees being uniformly at rupees 50 inclusive of copying-charges for first twenty copied pages.
l Order of Punjab and Haryana High Court for compulsory attaching ID proof with every RTI application, First appeal and Second Appeal should be implemented at centre and in all states to prevent filing RTI applications in fake names.
l Repeated CIC-recommendations for issuing RTI stamps in denominations of rupees 2, 10 and 50 should be issued (on lines of earlier Radio-TV licence-fees stamps) to prevent wastage of huge public-money in handling postal-orders which costs about rupees 50 to postal-department alone.
l RTI applicants can be given additional facility to send post-free RTI applications through all about 160000 post-offices rather than presently just about 4500 post-offices by introducing RTI envelopes in denominations of rupees 50 (inclusive of suggested increased RTI fees).
--Subhash Chandra Agrawal
1775 Kucha Lattushah Chandni Chowk, DELHI



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