A quick analysis of the draft RTI Rules, 2017
A quick analysis of the draft RTI Rules 2017 has been made. Readers are requested to go through the same and offer their comments. The readers may refer to the:-
1. Current RTI rules at - Right to Information Rules, 2012 and
2. The new draft RTI rules, 2017 at the link - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/circular/1_5_2016-IR-31032017.pdf
WHAT IS DIFFERENT IN THE DRAFT RTI RULES?
1. The total numbers of existing rules are just 15 while the new rules are 21.
2. There is just one Appendix in the current rules enclosing a format while the new rules proposes three formats as Appendix A, B and C.
3. Separate format have been prescribed for appeal and complaint. This implies that if a person wants to file an appeal and complaint together, he cannot combine both of them in the form of a single petition. This appears to be improper and would add to unnecessary paper work. Also, it would raise the difficulty level for the RTI appellant. Since the format of the Appeal and Complaint are similar, there should be an option for an individual to combine an appeal and complaint in the form of a single petition and not two separate petitions.
4. Certain additions have been made in the definitions in Rule 2.
(b)"Chief Information Commissioner" means the Chief Information Commissioner appointed under sub-section (3) of Section 12 of the Act.
(c)"Commission" means the Central Information Commission constituted under sub-section (1) of section 12 of the Act;
(d)"Decision" includes an order, direction or determination of an issue.
(e)"First Appellate Authority" means an officer in the public authority who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer to whom an appeal under sub – section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 19 of the Act lies.
(f)"Information Commissioner" means an Information Commissioner appointed under sub-section (3) of section 12 of the Act.
(g)"Non-Compliance" means non-implementation of the decisions in an appeal/complaint of the Commission by any person including the Central Public Information Officer or the public authority.
(i)"Representative" means a person duly authorized by or on behalf of any of the parties to the proceedings or interveners.
(j) "Secretary" means an officer so appointed as Secretary to the Commission by the Central Government.
IMPACT – Nothing significant
5. The Rule 8 has been proposed to be amended as below:
(vii)A request for condonation of delay in submission of appeal wherever required, giving reasons.
(viii)A certificate stating that the matter under appeal has not been previously filed and disposed or are pending, with the Commission or any court; and
(ix)Proof of service of appeal to respondent.
IMPACT – It is being made necessary for the appellant / complainant to serve the copy of the appeal to the respondent.
Suggestion – The registry should serve the petition if not served by the appellant.
6. Rule 8 (2) Every appeal, application, statement, rejoinder, reply or any other document filed before the Commission shall be typed, printed or written neatly and legibly and in double line spacing.
IMPACT – Nothing significant except that making it necessary in double line spacing should not be a handle for rejection of the appeal/ complaint.
Suggestion – No appeal/ complaint should be dismissed only on the ground that it is not typed in double space
7. Rule 8 (3) Before submitting an appeal to the Commission, the appellant shall cause a copy of the appeal, as the case may be, to be served on the Central Public Information Officer and shall submit a proof of such service to the Commission.
IMPACT – It is being made mandatoryfor the appellant to serve the copy of the appeal to the respondent.
Suggestion – It should not be made compulsory for the appellant to serve the appeal to the respondent and produce the proof before the CIC.
8. Return of Appeal as per Rule 9 (and proviso as per Rule 10 has been re-arranged. There is no impact of it.
9. Rule 10(1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information. has been deleted
IMPACT – The CIC need not hear an appellant before dismissing an appeal if it is not satisfied that it is a fit case to proceed with.
Suggestion – It is a draconian measure. No appeal should be dismissed without giving a hearing to the appellant.
10. There has been an additional Rule 12. ‘Withdrawal/Abatement of Appeal’ which says as under :-
(1)The Commission may in its discretion allow a prayer for withdrawal of an appeal if such a prayer is made by the appellant on an application made in writing duly signed or during hearing. However, no such prayer may be entertained by the Commission after the matter has been finally heard or a decision. or order has been pronounced by the Commission.
(2)The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant.
IMPACT - All appeals would lapse in the case of death of the RTI activist.
Suggestion - In case of death, the case should be allowed to continue and the CIC may take a call based on the records. In case of suspicious death, it should be considered as a case of public interest and the appeal be considered accordingly.
11. A new Rule 13. has been introduced regarding ‘Complaint to the Commission’ which reads:-
(1) A person may file a complaint to the Commission on the grounds mentioned in clauses (a) to (f) of sub-section (1) of section 18 of the Act either online or offline in the format given in the Appendix and shall be accompanied by the following documents, duly authenticated and verified by the complainant, namely:-
(i)a copy of the application submitted to the Central Public Information Officer;
(ii)copies of other documents, if any, relied upon by the complainant and referred to in his complaint;
(iii)an index of the documents referred to in the complaint;
(iv)A complaint submitted beyond 90 days from the date the cause of complaint arises, should be accompanied with the request for condonation of delay giving reasons.
(v)A certificate stating that the matter under complaint has not been previously filed and disposed or are pending, with the Commission or any court; and
(vi)Proof of service of complaint to respondent.
IMPACT – Serving of the complaint to the respondent and giving a proof would be the responsibility of the complainant.
Suggestion – It should not be made compulsory for the complainant to serve the appeal to the respondent and produce the proof before the CIC.
12. Two new Rules, Rule 14. ‘Return of Complaint’ and Rule 15. ‘Procedure for deciding complaints’ have been added which appears to be procedural.
13. A new Rule 16. ‘Compliance of the orders of the Commission’ has been added which says:-
A communication as per the format given in the appendix reporting non-compliance of the Commission's orders passed under the Act shall be dealt with as follows:-
(i)A non-compliance communication which is not submitted in the format or does not contain sufficient details may be returned to the sender with an appropriate facilitation memo.
(ii)The communication for non-compliance of the Commission's order shall be entertained only if it is made within 3 months from the date of non-compliance.
(iii)Provided that a communication of non-compliance may be considered after the prescribed period, if the applicant satisfies the Commission that he had sufficient cause for not submitting the application within such period.
(iv)In cases where no time period is fixed for complying with the orders of the Commission, it shall be presumed that the same are to be complied within 30 days from the date of the said order.
(v)On receipt of a non-compliance communication, the Commission shall determine whether compliance of the decision has been made. Where the Commission finds non-compliance of its decisions, it may proceed for action under the Act.
IMPACT - It puts into place a definite system for the ensuring compliance with CIC orders.
14. A new Rule 17.’Posting of appeal/complaint/non-compliance before the Information Commissioner’ has been added which reads:-
IMPACT - It puts into place a definite system for the ensuring compliance with CIC orders.
15. A new Rule 18. ‘Presence of the parties before the Commission’ has been added which reads as under:-
(5)The public authority may authorize any representative or any of its officers to present its case.
IMPACT – Does it mean that a public authority can seek the assistance of an advocate? If so, it would cause avoidable expenses in terms of legal fee.
Suggestion – Preferably, the CPIO should attend the hearing. If anyone else attends the hearing, he/she would not be able to clarify the reason for delay (if any).
16. A new Rule 21. ‘Seal and Emblem’ has been introduced which talks of the Official Seal and Emblem of the Commission shall be such as the Commission may specify.
Comments - A welcome step.
17. A new Rule 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. ‘Language of the Commission’ has been added.
IMPACT - It puts into place a clear policy for ensuring that appeals are either in Hindi or English.
18. APPENDIX A - FORMAT OF APPEAL
11.Proof of service of appeal to respondent.
IMPACT & SUGGESTION - As mentioned above, the burden of serving the petition to the respondent should not be thrust upon the appellant.
18. FORMAT OF COMPLAINT
Format for Filing Non-compliance Application has been added.
IMPACT & SUGGESTION - The format should have an option wherein an appeal and complaint can be combined in the form of a single petition.