Don't punish public for your inefficiency: Social activists to Chandigarh Administration
In a last ditch effort, the group of Civil Society Organisations, Citizen's Voice made another formal appeal to the
Administrator to repeal the illegal rules made to increase the RTI fee in Chandigarh. The representation handed over to
the Administrator said that it was incorrect for the administration to punish the public by raising the RTI fee for the
inefficiency by its bureaucracy and the senior officials. It mentions that since the Chandigarh Administration has
failed miserably in adhering to the law and fulfilling its obligations under the "Public Records Act of 1993," "Manual
of Office Procedure Rules," provisions of Section 4 of "The Right to Information Act," and the necessary guidelines
contained in the "Information Technology Act 2000." Since no proper record management and office procedure were
followed, so the retrieval of information becomes a problem whenever there is an RTI application.
The representation sent by Hemant Goswami, the convener of Citizen's Voice read "The problem faced by the Chandigarh
Administration is a clear result of its own inefficiency. What is required is strict action against all civil servants
whose departments do not have proper management and do not adhere to the directions of law. It is the highest official
whose inefficiency percolates to the lower levels and setting the top in order will definitely contain the rot in the
system. Such an action will also make it easy for various departments to provide information to the public."
The Administrator has also been asked to consider the reasonableness of the action by the Chandigarh Administration to
increase the RTI fee in the light of the fact that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Grievances and
Personnel, headed by Dr. E. M. Sudarasna Natchiappan, in January 2008 had actually recommended scrapping of the
application fee of making an RTI application. This was done because the standing committee felt that there was a need to
introduce greater transparency in dealing with RTI applications, as the majority of concerned officials were hesitant to
part with information. Even The CIC Wajahat Habibullah, had also welcomed the recommendation of the parliamentary
committee on scrapping of the fee, the appeal mentions.
Goswami has also raised the question of legality of the notification and mentioned that it was even legally not
sustainable. The increase fee also does not stand the test of reasonableness of the fee as mentioned under Section 7(5)
of the RTI Act. A copy costs just 40 paisa per copy and the Central government had already incorporated an additional
sum of 400 percent, i.e. Rs. 1.60 per page to compensate for all manpower used, storage charges, etc. It was improper to
increase the charges to Rs. 10 per page. Hemant mentions that if there was any need to recommend any change in the fee;
there was enough scope and margin to reduce it and/or scrap it altogether. There is already a move to scrap the
application fee (as recommended by the Natchiappan committee) and enough scope to reduce the documentation charges to
Rs. 1/- per page instead of Rs. 2/- charged at present. Besides, most of the information could also be provided free by
way of the provisions enshrined under Section 4(1) of the RTI Act, mentions Amit Gulati, another RTI activist.