Tuesday, April 04, 2017

New rules to subvert RTI Act, says Congress

Economic Times: New Delhi: Tuesday, April 04, 2017.
The Congress has alleged that the Centre's new draft rules on RTI has "formalised the process of subverting the Right To Information (RTI) Act", the transparency legislation of the UPA regime that provided citizens information on functioning of the government.
The main Opposition party has vowed to oppose the changes inside and outside Parliament.
"New draft rules of RTI, put out by the government and published in the DoPT website, say if an RTI application is more than 500 words, it can be rejected: Further, there's been steep enhancement in RTI charges. What you were getting for a nominal cost, let's say Re 1 per page of photocopy, has been doubled. Even the cost of postage and the cost of the reply will now have to be borne by the applicant. In other words, very surreptitiously, the bar is being raised to make the RTI paradigm difficult for ordinary people to access," AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari said at the Congress briefing in New Delhi on Monday.
"If there is handwritten appeal, not neatly typed in double space, it can be rejected. So you are imposing a cost on the poor and disenfranchised. There is also a provision which allows public authority or the first appellate authority to file counter appeals... This essentially means the whole process of seeking information will now become a judicial proceeding. This could also, according to many RTI activists, make serious safety issues for those who seek to access information."
When asked on the UPA regime's modification of RTI draft rules in 2012, Tewari claimed "the minor changes" of 2012 was only about certain category of fees and insisted what has been done in the latest draft rule will virtually make RTI Act non-functional.
Terming RTI Act "the single most empowering instrument that had been enacted in the past 70 years" and recalling how enactment and execution of the RTI Act had "created an upheaval, not only in the echelons of (then) government," Tewari said, "yet then UPA government never allowed any dilution to take place in the RTI paradigm."
He alleged the latest draft rules has only formalised what the NDA regime has been trying on RTI for the past three years. "Ever since this government has taken office there has been an attitude of active neglect toward the RTI.
Not only are RTI queries not answered, but even appeals processes have been very shoddily treated: There've been non-formal attempts over 3 years to scuttle RTI," Tewari alleged.