Thursday, December 18, 2014

CIC recommends ordinary postal stamp as RTI fee instrument

People seeking information under RTI Act may now be able to use postal stamps as application fee if a recommendation of the Central Information Commission is accepted by the Centre. 

Two Information Commissioners in two separate cases-- R K Jain and Raghubir Singh-- have made a common recommendation to the Department of Personnel and Training for implementing postal stamps as a mode of payment of RTI fee thus reducing hassles of applicants. 

RTI users now have to pay a fee of Rs 10 either in cash, bank demand draft or Indian Postal Order to get information. 

Some authorities like Army and Indian air force refuse to accept applications drawn in favour of Accounts Officer despite clear directives of the Department of Personnel and Training causing hassles to applicants. 

"The appellant has submitted that the postal department's recommendation for use of ordinary postal stamps for payment of RTI fee is both practical and user friendly. The Commission finds merit in the appellant's submissions and would urge the DoPT to consider this at the earliest. 

"In this connection it is noted that the government of Tamil Nadu has already allowed payment of RTI fee by affixing court fee stamps, Information Commissioner Basant Seth said in the matter of activist R K Jain. 

Agreeing with Seth, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also issued an exhaustive order on the issue recommending to DoPT to avail the opportunity of giving New Year Gift to the citizens by permitting and publicising the use of ordinary postal stamps for the payment of RTI fee. 

"Accepting postal stamps for RTI fee would resolve many difficulties in payment, besides preventing wastage of public money in returning or rejecting the IPOs or spending much larger amounts than Rs 10, for realising Rs 10, and avoidable litigation," he said. 

Acharyulu said returning the IPO to the appellant involves writing a letter on a white paper, covering in an envelop, spending public office's time which could have been used for some other productive work besides spending Rs 25 or Rs 30 for speed post. 

The case relates to applicant Raghubir Singh whose application was rejected an year ago as it was not correctly drawn in the favour of authority designated by the Directorate of Education, Government of Delhi. 

"In all the public authority will be spending approximately Rs 35 to Rs 50. It will also cause unnecessary expenditure for the appellant, who has already spend Rs 20 to get a postal order for Rs 10. For returning and taking a different IPO he has to spend again the same amount," Acharyulu said. 

The Commissioner said spending Rs 50 to reject the IPO worth Rs 10 on silly grounds would amount to wastage of Rs 50 plus Rs 60. 

"By accepting to deposit the postal order of Rs 10, they would be preventing expenditure of Rs 60 and use Rs 10," he said. 

He said it is a misuse of the power of PIO to reject to receive RTI application and the fee amounting to harassment of the applicant. 

"It is also a kind of denial of information. Any kind of delay in furnishing of information on such grounds, violates the letter and spirit of RTI Act on several counts," he said. 

Issuing a show cause notice for denying information, the Commissioner directed all the PIOs of Public Authority to submit separate reports to this Commission explaining how many IPOs they have rejected so far and what are the grounds of rejection, from January 2014 to December 10, 2014, within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
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