Is there a need to restrict the right to seek information under the RTI Act?
It has been claimed that while the Right to Information (RTI) is invaluable to our democracy, a few self-proclaimed activists have stretched it to the limit and have been filing frivolous RTI applications about issues that have no concern for the public at large. During the seven years period, the RTI Act has witnessed costs being imposed by the High Court on RTI applicants for filing frivolous appeals.
After being arrested for strip-protesting at a convention where the PM was speaking, a person filed an application under the RTI Act asking whether, "citizens of India need the PM's office's permission... on what underwear we can wear?"
It has been estimated that the number of queries filed under the RTI Act has seen an exponential rise. Earlier, the Information Commissioner Mr. Shailesh Gandhi has put the expected cost of an RTI appeal at Rs. 5,000 to 10,000 while the another retired Information Commissioner Mr. M.M. Ansari has estimates the cost of answering each RTI to be between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000. It also leads to diversion of resources for replying to the RTI applications instead of a more productive work.
The system of filing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) too has also been criticised and the Citizens' Report on Governance and Development, 2010 has found that the number of petitions, letters filed in Supreme Court in 2008 had risen to 24,666. Frivolous PILs, like the one against the Bollywood film Jism 2 for allegedly promoting a call girl only make a mockery of the judicial system.
Is there a way out of such misuse? Or, is it just a case of accepting the package having both, the good and the bad, as a whole with aberrations? Or is it merely some small misuse which is being blown out of proportion such to defame the system of PIL and RTI?