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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

RTI activists see red over SIC’s ban on postal order

Bar on use of Indian Postal Order for fee payment.

The State Information Commission’s (SIC) order that Indian Postal Orders (IPO) are not a valid mode of payment for submitting Right to Information applications has irked RTI activists.

RTI activists say the SIC’s order on December 2 dismissing a complaint against the rejection of an RTI application defeats the very objective of the legislation. The SIC held that IPOs are not a valid mode of payment under the RTI rules of the State government.

The case relates to an RTI application submitted by Shikha Chibbar of the Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) to the Home Department of the State in January. The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the department returned the application stating that the IPO attached with the application as payment of the fee was not a recognised mode of payment. Under the RTI rules of the State, the fee should be paid in cash or through bank draft or court fee stamp.

Allegation

“The SIC’s dismissal of the appeal against the return of the application is the latest instance of a trend of the SICs adding their weight to the problems that are increasingly preventing effective implementation of the RTI Act," says Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, CHRI. Section 7(1) of the RTI Act permitted a PIO to reject an RTI application only by invoking the exemptions specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the Act and no other reason would be valid or legitimate, he said. The Central government and several State governments accept IPOs for fee payment, he adds.
 
The order issued by the Chief Information Office Siby Mathews says “there is nothing improper or illegal in rejecting the application submitted by the petitioner,” as payment of an application fee of Rs.10 by IPO is not an approved method in the State.

Director General of Prosecutions T. Asaf Ali, who was actively involved in popularising the RTI Act, says postal orders should be accepted as an approved mode of payment. Rejection of an application on such a ground will defeat the very purpose of the legislation, he said.