An NGO Tuesday moved the Supreme Court, seeking the quashing of the rules framed by the Allahabad High Court restricting access to information under the Right to Information Act and tagging a high fee for obtaining it.
NGO Common Cause contended that the rules framed by the Allahabad High Court negated the citizens’ right to information and would frustrate the implementation of the RTI Act. The rules were framed by the high court in exercise of its administrative powers.
“RTI Act was the reflection of the will of the citizens of India that has been codified by parliament and accepting rules repugnant to the provision and object of the act would render the RTI Act redundant,” said the petition.
The NGO has sought the quashing of the rules framed by the high court which provide that every application seeking information would be made only for one query and those seeking information will have to disclose the “motive” for seeking the information.
“Under Rule 20 (of the high court rules), in order to determine what the ‘motive’ is, it is necessary to enquire into the purpose/reasons for which an applicant is seeking information,” the petition said, contending that “this is clearly violative of the statutory mandate of Section 6(2) of the RTI Act.”
“It imposes an unwarranted constraint on the actualization of the citizens’ fundamental right to information,” it contended.
Besides this, the high court rules have fixed fee accompanying the application at Rs.500, which is 50 times more than that fixed by the central government and accepted by the apex court. The applicant seeking information will have to pay charge of Rs.15 per page of information and that too in cash, the petition said.
The high court rules say that after the processing of the application, the information would be made available only after the permission of the chief justice or any other judge nominated by the chief justice in this regard.
The petition said these rules were clearly against the provisions of the RTI Act wherein the duty of giving the information or denying the same under Section 8 of the act, has been cast upon the public information officer (PIO).
“It is the PIO who has to suffer the penalty in case of wrongful denial or delay in giving information,” the petition said.
“PIOs can’t be taking instructions from the Chief Justice as to whether a particular information that exists with the registry or the secretariat in some file or electronic form, should be made available to the RTI applicant. PIO has to be guided by law and not by his superiors,” it said.
Referring to the high fee that had to accompany the application seeking information, the petition contended that in Uttar Pradesh, the per capita income was Rs.70 per day and this means that an average person would have to spend more than his week’s income to get a single query answered.
“There can be no doubt that such a high fee is unwarranted and cannot be considered to be ‘reasonable’,” the petition said.