Should BPL citizens be provided unlimited free information?
The public disclosure of the 793-page RTI files by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) on the Central Information Commission order has revealed a letter by the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Vide the letter dated 11 September 2005, he had suggested that Below Poverty Line (BPL) citizens who file an application under the RTI Act should be asked to pay for the information ‘beyond a certain number of pages’. He pointed to a definite possibility that anyone wanting to get voluminous information from the government will take the route of a BPL family to avoid payment of even the cost of stationary. To plug this loop-hole, he suggested putting a limit of certain number of pages of information which can be given free to members of BPL families and charging them for additional pages required.
Modi argued that unless a specific exemption is made for personnel information, the (RTI) Act is likely to be misused by various employees by taking a route of citizen seeking information. His advice to ensure the rich did not misuse the free information provision in the Right to Information Act (RTI) did not receive the approval of the government. Under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the citizens who are Below Poverty Line are exempt from paying any fee for getting information.