The State Information Commission has asked the government to pay the mailing and stationery expenses incurred by head teachers of government lower and upper primary schools for replying to Right to Information (RTI) queries.
As of now, in most cases, the headmasters and headmistresses of LP and UP schools meet the expenses out of their own pockets. The head teachers, who are the designated State Public Information Officers (SPIO) of their schools under the Right to Information Act, have to find the money, time and the infrastructure required to reply to the RTI queries, in addition to their responsibilities as head teachers. In a large number of government schools, the head teachers do the clerical work themselves. This has resulted in RTI queries remaining either un-replied or delayed.
Though the RTI applicants seeking information pay a fee and the copying charges in the government treasuries, these do not usually reach the head teachers.
Information Commissioner M.N. Gunavardhanan has, while deciding an RTI appeal, ordered the government to pay for the expenses and make other arrangements necessary for responding to RTI queries. The Director of Public Instructions has been asked to provide funds through the office expenditure head. The DPI has also been asked to do this within a month.
The commission’s order followed an appeal against the headmistress of Government UP School, Panthalam. An RTI applicant had asked for a copy of the fifth page in the service book of that school’s Class V teacher. Since the headmistress replied that there were several teachers teaching the fifth class, the applicant asked for the service book pages of all the teachers.
The applicant had paid the necessary fee and cost in the treasury, but this had not reached the headmistress and hence she had to spend Rs. 500 for replying to the RTI query.