Should application fee be charged again on transfer of RTI application?
The appellant had filed an application under RTI with the Ministry of Law and Justice. The Public Information Officer (PIO) of that ministry provided some of the information and had transferred one of the queries to the PIO of the High Court of Gujarat. The Gujarat High Court asked the appellant to deposit the application fee of Rs. 50/- so that his application could be responded to. The appellant filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) claiming that the High Court cannot ask him for depositing any application fee since he had already deposited the application fee with the Ministry of Law and Justice. The respondent argued that rule 8(A)(ii) of the Gujarat High Court (Right to Information) Rules 2005 had prescribed an application fee of Rs. 50/- for providing any information and, thus the information cannot be furnished without the prescribed application fee. However they gave an option to the appellant to deposit Rs. 40/- since he had already paid Rs. 10/- in the Ministry of Law and Justice.
View of CIC
The Commission noted that the RTI Act does not clearly state whether a public authority can charge application fee separately in addition to the application fee already paid by the information seeker, in case if the RTI application is transferred under section 6(4). The Commission further noted that the PIO was technically correct but it would have been far better if he had considered the request and provided the information because the cost of correspondence with the information seeker and the cost of going through the entire appellate process would be far more expensive than the Rs. 50 application fee which the PIO had demanded. The Commission directed the PIO to provide the information to the appellant or pass a speaking order in case of denial.
Having multiple ‘Competent authority’ with the powers to frame fee rules has created a situation wherein a citizen is forced to study the fee rules every time he wants to file a RTI application. This process is not only inconvenient but also delays the free flow of information. Should it not be made as on the lines of ‘India One’ – wherein there is a single set of fee rules for all public authority? In a federal country like ours, the Central Government can persuade all the state governments to follow a common practice.
Citation: Shri Bindeshwar Shah v. Nagar Panchayat in File No.CIC/SM/C/2011/000673
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/301
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission