NEW DELHI: Less than a week after a Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi told TOI that the Right To Information Act was going into a coma in Maharashtra, it emerges that the state surreptitiously introduced two new amendments to its own rules on RTI two months ago. Few seem to know about the new amendments, which were made on January 16.
According to the first amendment, "A request in writing for information under section 6 of the Act shall relate to one subject matter and it shall not ordinarily exceed one hundred and fifty words. If an applicant wishes to seek information on more than one subject matter, he shall make separate applications." The amendment goes on to add that if a request relates to more than one subject matter, the public information officer must respond to the request relating to the first subject only, and ask the information-seeker to file a separate application for each of the other subjects.
According to the second amendment, when an applicant is given permission to inspect records, the information-seeker will only be allowed to use a pencil during the inspection. If the applicant "brings any writing instrument other than a pencil, he shall deposit the same with the Public Information Officer." Those involved in the RTI movement have reacted sharply to some of the new amendments. "In a democracy, I feel that the government needs to consult people befor
amending the rules to the RTI Act. These amendments seem to have been made with a great deal of secrecy. They were made in January, and yet few seem to know about them," says CIC Gandhi.
He feels that the amendment does not define what a subject is. "Out of five queries, how does an information officer decide whether all of them are on the same subject? This, itself, is a rather subjective decision and will result in a great deal of arbitrariness on the part of public information officers," he says, adding that this will lead to controversy.
|SOURCE: The Times of India|