New Delhi: The registrars of the Supreme Court and high courts and the state governments have been asked by the Centre to harmonise rules to ensure uniformity in fee charged by them under Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The move assumes significance as various public authorities, especially in the states, charge different fees for providing information under the transparency law.
The Centre had notified a set of RTI Rules in 2012. While drafting them, it was stipulated that once notified, the state governments would be requested to adopt these rules "mutatis mutandis" (making necessary alterations while not affecting the main point at issue) so that there might be uniformity, as far as possible, in the matter of implementation of the Act throughout the country, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in an order.
"All the states or competent authorities are, therefore requested to kindly review their Right to Information (Fee and Cost Rules) and Appeal Procedure Rules and to notify, if need be, fresh rules in consonance with the those notified by the Government of India," it said in an order sent to the states and registrars of SC and HCs.
DoPT had in 2011 also written to public authorities to ensure that "the fee should not become disincentive for using the Right to Information". It has now been observed that a few states have not yet harmonised their fee rules with that of the central government, the Centre's order said.
An Indian citizen can get time-bound information on matters related to governance through the RTI Act. While, for central government ministries, people need to pay a fee of Rs 10 (no fee for those below the poverty line) for getting the information, some states and public authorities charge extra amount for filing information and towards photocopy charges among others, RTI activists say.
"These rules were notified in 2012 but it is after three years that the Centre has issued such a communique for uniformity in fees charged by them," said Commodore (Retd) Lokesh K Batra.
As per the rules, a fee of Rs two has to be charged for each page of photocopy in A-3 or smaller size paper and Rs 50 per diskette or floppy, among others.