Govt finds new ways to dodge RTI

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Old 28-May-2010
Govt finds new ways to dodge RTI

NEW DELHI: The government may have refrained from amending the Right to Information Act after Congress president Sonia Gandhi's intervened, but it has found a subtler way to refuse information.

Public authorities can refuse information in a particular for- mat on the ground that “it would disproportionately divert the resources of a public author- ity“ or that it “can be detri- mental to the safety or preser- vation of the records“.

The Department of Perso- nnel and Training (DoPT), the nodal office for RTI law, has said the section 7 (9) of the RTI law gives right to a public authori- ty to deny information if it leads to diversion of resources dis- proportionately.

In a circular issued this week, the department also rules out the possibility of the public authority asking the RTI appli- cant to pay for diversion of public resources to get the infor- mation in the sought format.

Seeking a charge for diver- sion of resources was often used by Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) to deter RTI applicants. In one case, the Delhi Police had asked for Rs 20,000 for providing some information.

While that has been termed illegal, the DoPT has provided a more lethal tool to CPIOs -- that is to deny information. The department said information sought in a particular format can be refused.

The circular was issued in response to transparency watchdog Central Information Commission asking the gover- nment to frame rules for charg- ing fees for providing informa- tion that is priced and towards mailing charges.

“The government has not considered it desirable to charge fees towards expendi- ture involved in mailing infor- mation or overhead expendi- ture,“ the circular said.

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