New RTI Act rules by J-K govt not `people friendly`: Experts

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 17:48

New Delhi: The new rules under the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 notified by the State government is attracting strong criticism from RTI activists, who have alleged several discrepancies in it.
"There are lot of loopholes in these rules. It clearly
reflects that it is not people friendly, the BPL category have
been completely ignored," Venkatesh Nayak, programme
coordinator, access to information program, Commonwealth Human
Rights Initiative said.

The fee for any RTI application has been kept at Rs 50 as
against Rs 10 which is taken as fee in the rest of India.

"The BPL category will not be able to exercise their
Right to Information. And the standing parliamentary committee
is already considering to exempt the Centre`s RTI Act 2005 of
the Rs 10 charges too," he said.

"The information officer will charge Rs 10 per page as
cost of providing photocopies of the actual document as
against Rs two per page in rest of India. For inspection of
records also, there is no fee for the first hour and a fee of
Rs 15 for each subsequent hour (or a fraction thereof)," Dr
Raja Muzaffar Bhat, convener J-K RTI movement in Kashmir said.

"As per RTI Act 2005, no fees are charged for inspection
of records," he said.

Moreover, if information is to be provided on a CD or
floppy the rates will be Rs 75 and Rs 100 respectively. "CDs
cost as little as Rs 25 even in the most expensive of shops.
Given this scenario the high rates are difficult to
understand," he said.

Complaints or appeals as per the new rules may be
dismissed if similar application is pending with another
public authority, Bhat said.

"This can amount to a serious restriction on the right of
people in Kashmir to seek redress of grievance relating to
information access," Nayak said.

He said, "If a desired information is maintained by a
village Panchayat office and also in the office of the Deputy
Commissioner of the area concerned.

If one does not get access to the information from the
Panchayat office under the RTI Act, he can file a complaint
before the JK-SIC. However, this should not disqualify an
information seeker from filing a similar application with the
PIO of the Deputy Commissioner`s office."

Another drawback suggests that there is no obligation on
the J&K State Information Commissioner to pronounce his
decisions in the open.

"All civil and criminal courts are required to pronounce
their orders in the open. Merely communicating it to the
parties is not enough. There have been cases in which some of
the orders issued by Information Commissions differ in content
from what was agreed upon during the actual hearing of the
case," Nayak said.

"They have nowhere mentioned the way to approach CIC in
case an information seeker is not satisfied with the SIC," he
added.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 17:48

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