Limit RTI applications to 250 words: DoPT

RTI applications may now be limited to 250 words and to only one topic.

Updated: Dec 12, 2010, 13:09 PM IST

New Delhi: RTI applications may now be
limited to 250 words and to only one topic if the rules for
processing of such applications suggested by the Department of
Personnel may find their way through.

According to proposed amendments in the RTI rules, the
DOPT, nodal body for implementing the Act in the country, has
said each application will be limited to 250 words excluding
the address of the public authority and applicant. It will
also be limited to only one subject matter.

Even more surprising is the fact that RTI applicants
will have to pay the "actual amount" spent by public authority
on hiring a machine or any other equipment, if any, to supply
information.

The rules will be a modification of the present RTI
(regulation of fee and cost) rules, 2005 and the Central
Information Commission (appeal procedure) rules, 2005.

The DoPT has sought the comments on these changes from
public on email id "usrti-dovt@nic.in" by December 27, 2010.

The rules have resulted in furore among RTI activists
who say that they will be of no good to semi-literate and
illiterate people who are the main users of the law.

"Though Comments being sought from Civil Society
though in accordance with Section 4(1)(c) of the RTI Act,
however this notification gets limited to only those who are
net friendly and that too only two weeks time given,"
Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra said.

He said people from rural areas who do not have
Internet access will be devoid of sending their views on the
subject.

"Putting a word limit of 250 words will obstruct the
Right to Information. There was very minute number of people
who misused the provisions of RTI applications by asking large
number of questions but there are enough powers to reject such
applications. There was no need for such limits on word
usage," said Subhash Agrawal, another RTI activist.

"The new rules widen the ambit of discretionary use by
the concerned Public Information Officer who can reject the
applications summarily," Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human
Rights Initiative said.

He asked how can the government set a limit of words,
especially when same set of questions in different languages
will require different word usage.

He also said legally the process of RTI starts when
application is submitted to a PIO. "The State cannot dictate
the user to set word limit before process starts. Instead the
CPIO should be empowered to ask the appellant to prioritise
the information, in case of voluminous information," he said.

PTI