Should filing of RTI application require a fee of Rs. 500/-?
The poverty line in the country has been defined at Rs 28.65 per capita daily consumption in cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas. However, filing of an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Uttar Pradesh State Judiciary requires an application fee of Rs. 500/-. The Rule 4 and 5 of the Allahabad HC (RTI) Rules, 2006, prescribe a fee of Rs. 500 /- for filing an application and prescribes a cost of Rs. 15/- per page of information to be supplied. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the RTI rules framed by the Allahabad High Court and asking for a reduction in the fee.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Registrar General of the Allahabad High Court and the Central Information Commission (CIC) on a public interest petition challenging the RTI rules framed by the High Court. On behalf of a NGO, Common Cause, Mr. Prashant Bhushan argued that the rules were unduly restrictive as:
- it limited the information that could be sought in respect of the subject
- it limited the information that could be sought in respect of the number of questions.
- the Rules were not in consonance with the RTI Act.
- the said Rules violate Article 19(1) Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified in sub¬section (1) or clause (a) of sub-section (3) of section 7, or is aggrieved by a decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority: Provided that such officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of thirty days if he or she is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time. (a) of the Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to information to all Indian citizens.
- the Central Information Commission has repeatedly asked the Allahabad High Court to modify its RTI Rules, but its recommendations have been ignored.
In April, 2011, the Central Government had issued a notification asking the states and competent authorities to review their Fee Rules and fix the RTI application fee in consonance with the charge prescribed by the Union government in the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005. According to the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005, the application fee of Rs. 10/- has been prescribed. Even the Supreme Court has accepted the fee prescribed by the Union government made in pursuance of Section 28 of RTI Act, 2005