Saturday, March 13, 2010

Civic body's Rs1 lakh RTI fee stuns applicant

Civic body's Rs1 lakh RTI fee stuns applicant

Ashutosh Shukla / DNA Friday, March 12, 2010 0:38 IST

Mumbai: When he decided to apply for information under the Right to Information Act, Amit Maru had thought it would be a routine affair. So, imagine his shock when he was told that the information he required would cost him a whopping Rs1 lakh.

Maru had sought information on the rooms allotted to project affected persons (PAPs) all over Mumbai since 1995, from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's estate department.

PAPs are allotted rooms by authorities if they come in the way of infrastructural projects after due verification. Maru had also asked for details of the verification done by the authority on these project affected persons. However, he was told something that, according to him, 'makes no sense'.

"Most importantly this letter saying I have to pay Rs1 lakh is not even signed by the public information officer (PIO). Someone has signed on his behalf, which is wrong. A part of the information I require pertains to another department, but instead of forwarding my request, they simply said the information did not belong to them," Maru said. "They are also supposed to justify the amount they ask," he added indignantly.

However, experts said there could be a reason behind the response. "Signing for the PIO is unquestionably wrong, but in certain cases where the information required is a lot, which could be possible in this case, officers check a few files and then give a rough estimate or ask the person to come and inspect the files himself.

What the applicant can now ask for is whether the amount they are asking is for only A4 size papers or are there plans in it. In case they are available in the electronic format, it may be easier to procure it at a cheaper cost. But, if the applicant's intention is to monitor some government project, it is better to mark out an area and then seek details of the place instead of for the entire city," said Bhaskar Prabhu, an RTI activist.

Another activist Krishnaraj Rao said, "It is definitely wrong on the part of the officer not to give a reason behind the exorbitant charge. It is mandatory for them to do so in cases where the information required runs into lakhs of pages. But, in this case the officer has asked the applicant to come and check the files himself, which means that the information is voluminous. Obviously, the applicant had no idea what it meant."


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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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