Maharashtra quietly amends RTI rules in Jan 2012
Vide notification dated 16th January and 31st January, the RTI Rules have been amended in Maharashtra. Both notifications bear the signature of Mr. Nandkumar Jatre, Secretary to the state government. The amendment says:
1. The request for information must not exceed 150 words.
a. Any application more than 150 words may be rejected by a PIO.
b. There would be unnecessary controversy and appeals regarding the counting of words.
2. The request for information must relate to one subject matter only.
a. An applicant has to file separate applications if he is seeking information about more than one topic.
b. There would be a big difference of opinion about what constitutes one subject.
3. The Public Information Officer (PIO) should allow the person inspecting the documents to take a pencil only and all other writing instruments must be deposited with the PIO.
There has been gross error of judgment by the Maharashtra government which has been criticised by RTI activists. The basic points of disagreement are:
1. Section 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; of the RTI Act says, “Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.’ Even the DoPT called for comments before an attempted change in the RTI Act. The Maharashtra government did not try to involve the citizen which is against the RTI Act.
2. While view may differ, this site feels that a word limit of 300 words would be suitable as it would not only avoid mischievous applications, but would also be conducive in a country where literacy levels are low.
3. Activists have argued that restricting a RTI application to a single subject would give the Public Information Officers (PIO) more powers to reject applications and would defeat the very purpose of the Act. In the opinion of this site, it would open a floodgate of appeals as what is one subject is open to interpretation.