The High Court has ordered supply of information free of cost to a person belonging to Below Poverty Line under Right To Information Act recently.

RTI activists are elated by the judgment which, they said, could be cited as precedent in future and would benefit a large section of people.

A division Bench comprising of Chief Justice of the High Court Justice C. Nagappan and Justice P. Mohanty ordered, “the petitioner having filed his BPL card showing that he comes under the BPL category, no cost of information can be imposed on him.”

Kunja Bihari Patra of Nayagarh district, who was denied information regarding construction of National Highway 224 by National Highway Authority of India, Nayagarh in 2010, had made an appeal before Odisha Information Commission.

While disposing of the case, Odisha Information Commission asked NHAI to furnish information on deposit of cost. However, Mr. Patra went to High Court appealing to be supplied with said information free of cost.

The High Court observed that provision to subsection (5) of Section 7 of the RTI Act, 2005 stipulates that no fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line.

Since Mr. Patra produced his BPL card in the court, the High Court ordered waiving cost for the information.

At present, information seekers belonging to BPL category enjoy filing of RTI applications free of cost. But they have to pay the cost of information.

“We contended that when BPL category person is unable to pay application, it is surprising that he would pay cost of information which at sometimes run into thousands of pages. Though the judgment is concerned to an individual, it could be cited as precedent,” said Siddharth Prasad Das, counsel for Mr. Patra in the High court.

Reacting to the judgment, RTI activist Pradip Pradhan, “High Court’s judgment has exposed Odisha Information Commission which was behaving like an extension of government.

When RTI Act, 2005 clearly stated that no BPL person would pay for information cost, the Odisha info panel had been insisting on payment of information cost.”

“We will now highlight the HC order in different fora. BPL information seekers would be educated about their rights,” Mr. Pradhan said.

At present, information seekers belonging to BPL category enjoy filing of RTI applications free of cost