Skip to main content

Decade-old Right to Information regime "fails to allow" simple, uniform rules for RTI payments across India

By Our Representative
A senior Right to Information (RTI) activist has taken strong exception to the way RTI rules of state governments failing to clearly indicate in whose favour non-cash payment instruments for filing RTI applications must be drawn. “It varies from public authority to public authority”, says Venkatesh Nayak in a letter he has dashed to Sanjay Kothari, secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India.
“It is unfortunate that this problem has persisted in the second decade of the implementation of the RTI Act, making it very inconvenient for citizens, particularly those living in rural areas, to make fee payments under the RTI Act”, says Nayak, who is Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi.
The problem, says Nayak, is not just faced by RTI applicants, but also Public Information Officers (PIOs), who are receive RTI pleas. “Several PIOs, across different states, have reported that they often end up paying the photocopying charges from their pockets, as withdrawal from the contingency funds gets delayed and puts them in danger of being penalised for delayed supply of information”, he points out.
This is because the “PIOs are required by the applicable financial rules to deposit all fees received from citizens in the bank accounts of their offices and make withdrawals from the funds allotted to meet contingency expenditure for paying the information reproduction charges”, the senior activist says.
Pointing out that while the RTI Rules notified by the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, requires all payments to be made in favour of the Accounts Officer, rules differ elsewhere.
“Several public authorities require these instruments to be drawn in favour of the DDO or the P&AO or some other authority”, says Nayak, adding, “For example, the web page of the Indian Army instructs RTI applicants to drawn up fee payment instruments in favour of “GSO-1 RTI Fund.”
Giving the example of Uttarakhand of how it has simplified the by allowing payments of all kinds of fees “in favour of the PIO or the APIO”, Nayak says, “This is a very convenient procedure for all RTI applicants as the requests for information are also addressed to these designated officers. This practice deserves to be emulated across all jurisdictions, including the Central Government.”
Nayak recommends, “The practice adopted in Uttarakhand can be uniformly adopted across the country using an existing financial procedural mechanism”, adding, “Upon a perusal of the General Financial Rules 2005 (GFR), I have found that it is possible to create a simple mechanism for making fee payments and spending the monies under the RTI Act.”
The GFR Rule 88, read with Rule 89, Nayak says, “permits the creation of a ‘Personal Deposit Account’ which can be operated by a designated officer for the purposes specified in that Rule.” The Rule 88 says, “Personal Deposit Account is a device intended to facilitate the Designated Officer thereof to credit receipts into and effect withdrawals directly from the account, subject to an overall check being exercised by the bank in which the account is authorised to be opened.”
As for the Rule 89, it says, “The Personal Deposit Account shall be authorised to be opened by a special order by the concerned Ministry or Department in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts.”

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.