Indian Government Retorts to Critics of RTI Rules Proposals

28 January 2011

An Indian government department has replied negatively to criticisms of its proposals to amendment the Right to Know Act rules, including to place a word limit on request and to abate appeals on the death of an applicant.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) launched a consultation exercise in December 2010 on its suggested changes, and one of those to object was the prestigious National Advisory Council, headedby Sonia Gandhi.  Now the DoPT has issued a rebuttal statement.

Regarding the proposed 250 word, one subject per request limit, the DoPT replied that it is necessary for effective implementation of the law and that without a word limit unnecessary information was being sought, such as interpretations or solutions to the problem, summarized the Hindustan Times. The India Times also wrote a long article.

The department said in part: 

Apprehension that people who are not well educated may not be able to write an application within 250 words is without any basis inasmuch as long applications are made by the people who are well educated and who try to seek explanation, etc., instead of seeking information as defined in the Act. The Act provides that if a person is not able to make a request, the public information officer would render him assistance in making the request. This provision takes care of the people who are not well educated.

Long applications contain statements and descriptions which are not relevant for seeking information. It only wastes the time of the public information officer and other officers who directly or indirectly deal with such applications. There is a need to strike a balance and to retain focus on the specific issue on which information is being sought.

The department appeared to retreat some on fees, agreeing to drop a proposal to charge for the time employees took to find information, but still seeking to charge photocopying and postal fees.

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