Provisions of Odisha RTI Rules, 2005 which are inconsistent with the RTI Act, 2005
A Public Hearing on "RTI and Working of Information Commissions" was organised by NCPRI (National Campaign for Protection of Right to Information) in campus of Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on 11th October 2012. It was attended by over 200 RTI Activists from 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. States who presented the cases of Mal-functioning of Information Commissions like low disposal of cases, inordinate delay in hearing, huge pend ency and inefficiency of Information Commissioners.
Mr. Pradip Pradhan has highlighted certain aspects of the working of the RTI Act in Odisha and has discussed the provisions of Odisha RTI Rules which stands as biggest obstacle for effective implementation of RTI Act in the state. Apart from RTI Activists, the Public Hearing was attended by Mr. Wajahat Habubulla, former Chief Central Information Commissioner, Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, AP Chief Information Commissioner and Mrs. Aruna Roy. The Public Hearing was coordinated by Mr. Nikhil Dey, Sri Venkateswar Nayak and Mrs. Anjali Bhardwaj etc.
The testimonial of Shri Pradip Pradhan is given below for the readers.
Certain provisions of the Odisha RTI Rules 2005 which are repugnant, inconsistent and incongruous with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 are described below.
- Provision for Proof of Citizenship
Rule-2 (e) ‘Identity’- The given definition which requires an applicant to show the evidence of his ‘citizenship like an electoral photo identity card, a passport or any other document which can satisfy the authority about the citizenship of the person’ at the time of submission of RTI Application needs to be altogether abolished, as it is not in consonance with the parent Act, which under Section 6(2) says inter alia that a citizen is not required to give ‘any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him’. Neither Central Govt. nor any state Govt. has made such provisions in their respective Rules.
- Compulsory Application Form
The State Govt. has prescribed a compulsory application Form (Form-A), which requires to be filled up by an RTI applicant while seeking for information. The said lengthy 11-column Form-A requires the copy of Voter’s Card or Passport to be attached as a proof of citizenship. This provision not only deprives the citizens below 18 years of their right to make an application for information, but also discloses personal details like name of father/spouse, permanent address, age and sex etc. (as mentioned in the voter card/passport) in contravention of the Section 6(2) of the Act. Further, it is seen that it has become very difficult on the part of any common man to fill it up. So this Form needs to be withdrawn, and the people should be allowed to apply in their own manner as is the practice at Central level and in other State Government. The State Govt. may develop a simplified format like those of the Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Maharastra for facility of ordinary people to apply for information.
- Denial of Application and Information through Email
Though Section 6(1) of RTI Act 2005 and Rule 4(1) of Orissa RTI Rules 2005 provide for submission of RTI application and dispatch of information implied therein, not a single public authority under the control of Government of Odisha has been able to enforce such a provision, leading to denial of right to information to a wide section of citizens in and outside the State. It needs to be remedied forthwith. Each PIO should have e-mail address to enable citizens to apply and seek information under RTI Act.
- Compulsory Forms for 1st & 2nd Appeals and Appeal fees- illegal
The imposition of compulsory Forms, Form-D and Form-E along with Appeal fees of Rs.20/- and Rs.25/- respectively to be paid through Court Fee is simply ultra vires in context of Section 27(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:. (a) the cost of the medium or print cost price of the materials to be disseminated under sub-section (4) of section 4; (b) the fee payable under sub-section (1) of section 6; (c) the fee payable under sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7; (d) the salaries and allowances payable to and the terms and conditions of service of the officers and other employees under sub-section (6) of section 13 and sub-section (6) of section 16; (e) the procedure to be adopted by the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, in deciding the appeals under sub-section (10) of section 19; and (f) any other matter which is required to be, or may be, prescribed. of the parent Act and, therefore, needs to be withdrawn and replaced by a suitable provision declaring no form or fees for any appeal to be made under the Act.
- Fees collected from BPL families against cost of information- illegal
In Odisha, the PIO including those of Odisha Information Commission are collecting fees towards cost of information from the BPL people, in blatant contravention of Section 7(5) Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), pay such fee as may be prescribed: Provided that the fee prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate Government. of RTI Act. As per a study undertaken by PRIA in 2008, a good number of BPL people who initially submitted the RTI applications to various offices in Odisha didn’t collect the information as they were asked to pay the fees, which they couldn’t afford. So the anti-poor practice of collecting information fees from the BPL people in Odisha must be scrapped forthwith.
- Form-B (letter of intimation)
The Form-B (PIO’s letter of intimation to the applicant) is paradoxical, since it doesn’t contain, as it should under Section 7(3) of the Act, any space for break-up of the total fees demanded and the particulars of first appellate authority before whom the applicant, if aggrieved by the decision of PIO, may lodge an appeal within the time-limit to be specified therein. Thus Form-B needs to be redesigned as per the mandate of the Act.
- Form-C (letter of rejection)
The Form-C prescribed under Orissa RTI Rules 2005 is out and out an affront to the mandate of the parent Act for it cites some arbitrary grounds for rejection of an Application falling outside the purview of the Act, such as, ‘Your Application is not complete in all respects’, ‘Your identity is not satisfactory’, ‘The information is available otherwise to Public’, ‘The information as sought for by you is available in our Website’ and ‘For any other reason’. The Act has stipulated clearly the possible grounds for rejecting an application fully or partially, such as those covered under Sections 8, 9, 10, 11 and 24 only. The Form-C therefore needs be revoked to honour the letter and spirit of Act.
- Rule- 4: Prohibitive Modes of fees payment
The Schedule to Orissa RTI Amendment Rules 2006 stipulates the Fees/Amount to be charged in respect of application fees, cost of information fees and appeal fees. Apart from the fact that the provision of Appeal Fees is altogether anti-peoplel as already mentioned supra, the modes of payment of application fees are only through cash or treasury-challan and the fees towards information is also through cash. From the experience of nearly six and half years of RTI implementation in the State, it has been noticed that not only the people in the State find it extremely hard and harsh for use of such restrictive modes of payment, but the citizens outside the State find it impossible for use. The question arises - while IPO is the standard mode of payment for all purposes at Central level and in rest of the States, why shouldn’t it be prescribed under Orissa RTI Rules besides other possible modes of payment like Money Order, Demand Draft, Banker’s Cheque and Electronic Payment?