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Social Activists Message To Chandigarh Admin.

Don't punish public for your inefficiency: Social activists to Chandigarh Administration

In a last ditch effort, the group of Civil Society Organisations, Citizen's Voice made another formal appeal to the Administrator to repeal the illegal rules made to increase the RTI fee in Chandigarh. The representation handed over to the Administrator said that it was incorrect for the administration to punish the public by raising the RTI fee for the inefficiency by its bureaucracy and the senior officials. It mentions that since the Chandigarh Administration has failed miserably in adhering to the law and fulfilling its obligations under the "Public Records Act of 1993," "Manual of Office Procedure Rules," provisions of Section 4 of "The Right to Information Act," and the necessary guidelines contained in the "Information Technology Act 2000." Since no proper record management and office procedure were followed, so the retrieval of information becomes a problem whenever there is an RTI application.

The representation sent by Hemant Goswami, the convener of Citizen's Voice read "The problem faced by the Chandigarh Administration is a clear result of its own inefficiency. What is required is strict action against all civil servants whose departments do not have proper management and do not adhere to the directions of law. It is the highest official whose inefficiency percolates to the lower levels and setting the top in order will definitely contain the rot in the system. Such an action will also make it easy for various departments to provide information to the public."

The Administrator has also been asked to consider the reasonableness of the action by the Chandigarh Administration to increase the RTI fee in the light of the fact that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Grievances and Personnel, headed by Dr. E. M. Sudarasna Natchiappan, in January 2008 had actually recommended scrapping of the application fee of making an RTI application. This was done because the standing committee felt that there was a need to introduce greater transparency in dealing with RTI applications, as the majority of concerned officials were hesitant to part with information. Even The CIC Wajahat Habibullah, had also welcomed the recommendation of the parliamentary committee on scrapping of the fee, the appeal mentions.

Goswami has also raised the question of legality of the notification and mentioned that it was even legally not sustainable. The increase fee also does not stand the test of reasonableness of the fee as mentioned under Section 7(5) of the RTI Act. A copy costs just 40 paisa per copy and the Central government had already incorporated an additional sum of 400 percent, i.e. Rs. 1.60 per page to compensate for all manpower used, storage charges, etc. It was improper to increase the charges to Rs. 10 per page. Hemant mentions that if there was any need to recommend any change in the fee; there was enough scope and margin to reduce it and/or scrap it altogether. There is already a move to scrap the application fee (as recommended by the Natchiappan committee) and enough scope to reduce the documentation charges to Rs. 1/- per page instead of Rs. 2/- charged at present. Besides, most of the information could also be provided free by way of the provisions enshrined under Section 4(1) of the RTI Act, mentions Amit Gulati, another RTI activist.


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