Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has recommended deletion of some of the RTI rules proposed by the Government, holding they are “legally wrong” while some others may encourage “blackmail” and “murder” of information seekers.
The Government had proposed rules for processing RTI applications. One of them suggested that one application shall relate “only to one subject and shall be limited to 250 words...”
Objecting to the proposed rule, the NAC has said, “This would be introducing an exemption which is not in the Act. It is legally wrong for rules to go beyond the Act. The rule about a single subject will be open to arbitrariness and misuse as it is difficult to define.”
The Council has also recommended deletion of another proposed rule which allowed abatement of proceedings before the Information Commission on the death of the appellant, saying such a rule could encourage “murder” of RTI Activists.
“This (abatement of proceedings) could encourage murder of RTI Activists. Besides information sought might often be of interest to others apart from the applicant,” it said.
The body objected to “allowing withdrawal” of an appeal during the course of hearing at the Information Commission. It said withdrawal of appeals could become a source of “harassment/blackmail.”
Going further on the word limit rule, the NAC has recommended its deletion, saying “limit of number of words is bad in Law, unrealistic and will militate against rural applicants.” The council also said there is no evidence that either a subject or word limit is “widespread problem” in the processing of RTI applications.
The council has sent its recommendations to the Department of Personnel and Training which had invited public comments on the proposed rules.
The suggestions for changes in the rules were formulated in a meeting of the NAC working group on Transparency, Accountability and Governance on December 13, 2010. These recommendations were accessed through an RTI application filed by Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
On the proposal of appointing Chief Executive Officer and Registrar General for Central Information Commission, the NAC has recommended that Information Commissioner should have “freedom to select its staff from among Government Servants or from open market. Also, IC should have the freedom to allocate work and responsibility.”
The NAC has suggested that Public Information Officers will have to “personally” bear the cost of “legal representation” during a hearing of appeal or penalty proceedings before the Central information Commission if they chose to send a representative of theirs to present the case.
The Council has said missing documents should not be a criteria while rejecting an appeal or application by the Information Commissions. It has also recommended that information should be sent in such a way that proof or receipt remains with the PIOs. It also recommended charging extra postal charges only when the amount is above Rs 50.