Anti-RTI and anti-poor attitude of Congress exposed – RTI fees in Madhya Pradesh to be increased by a whopping 10 times affecting millions of poor applicants
RTI activists say that the proposal for such huge increase in RTI fees is an attack on the right of people to know what the government is up to and is seen as a move to deter them from filing for information.
In a revealing admission of its elitist and anti-poor attitude, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has increased the RTI fees affecting millions of applicants. RTI Activist Subhash Agrawal reports that the Madhya Pradesh government has raised RTI fees from present rupees 10 to rupees 100 which is a huge increase. Apart from this, additional fees for filing First Appeals and Second Appeals have been raised to Rupees 500 and 1000.
Chief Information Commissioner AK Shukla has informed the media that the proposal was prepared by the State government itself and increasing the RTI fees is the discretion of the government. When the increase is put in place, MP will be the most expensive state to give out information from its public offices. Such huge increase in RTI fees affects lakhs of people soliciting information from the state government while the party scion Rahul Gandhi continues to boast about RTI as one of its achievements.
The proposal for such huge increase in RTI fees is an attack on the right of people to know what the government is up to, says RTI activists.
Upper limit of RTI fees breached
In its manifesto ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Congress in Madhya Pradesh had promised that it would review the RTI Act and omit provisions that may have diluted it and add provisions to strengthen it. Instead, it has put the burden on the RTI applicants and is seen as a move to deter them from filing for information.
As per Subhash Agrawal, RTI fees cannot be more than rupees 50 according to a court-verdict. He also informs that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) should notify that RTI fees and payment-mode should be uniform for all states and Competent Authorities should take note of it.
Earlier several Authorities and states had fixed abnormally high RTI fees at rupees 500 according to power given to them under sections 27 and 28 of RTI Act. Agrawal says that it is true that negligible RTI fees of just rupees 10 fixed long back in the year 2005 by DoPT has lost relevance and is also one of the reasons for misuse of RTI Act.
However, uniform RTI fees of rupees 50 inclusive of copying charges for first 20 copied pages should be there for all public-authorities and states, he opines. It will save man-hours and postal charges for both public authorities and RTI applicants in demanding and remitting copying charges. But additional RTI fees for First Appeals and Second Appeals must not be there, says Subhash Agrawal.
Burden on Postal department
Agrawal says that it is senseless to burden postal-department and banking-system with excessively high handling cost of about rupees 50 for postal-department alone for a postal-order worth rupees 10 submitted as RTI fees, and hence DoPT should ask postal-department to abide by repeated CIC-directives to issue special RTI stamps in denominations of rupees 2, 10 and 50 like erstwhile stamps issued for TV and radios.
However facility to submit post-free RTI applications addressed to central public-authorities can be made available at all about 160000 post-offices of the country rather than present just about 4500 post-offices. Fake RTI applications should be prevented by abiding with verdict of Punjab-Haryana High Court to make it compulsory to file ID proof with every RTI application, First Appeal and Second Appeal, says Subhash Agrawal.