It refers to media-reports about Maharashtra government considering change in RTI rules reportedly on advice of General Administration Department (GAD). One proposed change is that an applicant would not be given details that “involve fresh collection of non-available data” or “compilation of existing data”, other being not to give information on queries that seek “justification”. But the proposed change in rules is not at all necessary because RTI Act in itself has already such provisions. Fear is that the move may be aimed at some jugglery of words in name of clarifications about the transparency Act may tend to dilute spirit of RTI Act.
Sections 27 and 28 of RTI Act are often misused by state-governments and competent authorities respectively by making rules which at times are contrary to RTI Act itself like was done in earlier days by Delhi High Court by having rules totally in contradiction of provisions of RTI Act. It was on behest of India’s first Chief Information Commissioner when the then Chief Justice of Delhi changed disturbing rules. Several states and competent authorities misuse power to have RTI fees as high as rupees 500 or having additional fees for filing first appeals through their power to have their own set of rules which include fixation of RTI fees also despite repeated circulars from Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) both in UPA and NDA regimes advising them to have uniformity in RTI fees fixed by DoPT presently at rupees ten.
It will be better that states and competent authorities may uniformly follow rules drafted by DoPT presently applicable only for central public authorities. However to prevent misuse of RTI Act and to save huge expenses in handling mischievous RTI petitions as also highlighted by a prominent English daily of the capital on 19.07.2016 in respect of RTI petitions received at Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), DoPT should make it compulsory to file Identity Proof of RTI petitioner bearing his/her signature apart from raising basic RTI fees to rupees 50 inclusive of first twenty copies pages of documents.