NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to circulate "controversial" RTI rules of Uttar Pradesh among all the state information commissions to seek their comments.
As per file notings, accessed by Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra under the RTI Act, Secretary (Personnel) of DoPT Sanjay Kothari said "we may circulate them to all state governments with a request to go through them and send their comments to government of UP with a copy to us".
"We may send it to Union CIC for info... Subsequently, we may hold a workshop in this regard," he wrote.
The RTI rules, framed by Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission and vetted by the state government, have come under sharp criticism of the activists who termed certain provisions as against the letter and spirit of the transparency law.
The rules put a cap of 500 words while filing an RTI application, besides do not mention obligation of a public authority to display names of officials dealing with RTI applications on public display.
"Rule 4(2)...Clauses (ii) and (iii) do not take note of the caveat given in the Supreme Court judgement in the CBSE vs Aditya Bandopadhyaya case in 2012 where the Supreme Court said that of opinion or advice can be culled out from the official record then it may be given," said Venkatesh Nayak, RTI activist with at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
Nayak said Rule 5(2)(iv) does not follow the lowest benchmark for fee rates set by the Central RTI Rules as well as those of Uttarakhand and other states with regard to inspection of records.
"Rule 7(8) does not provide for search procedures to be initiated by the Commission when a public authority claims that records are missing," he said.
Nayak said these Rules do not differentiate between APL and BPL RTI applicants.
"Rule 4(5) is also against the spirit of the RTI Act where a PIO is not required to transfer an RTI application to more than one public authority under Section 6(3) of the Act... A Full Bench of the CIC went a step further and ruled in a case that where PIOs of multiple public authorities have official email ids, the RTI application can be transferred to all of them at the click of a button instead of following the DoPT's suggested route," he said.
Nayak has said Rule 4(7) is in complete violation of Section 10 of the RTI Act relating to severability of exempt information.
The objections have been supported by Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra and UP-based activist Urvashi Sharma.
Sharma said the rules allow an RTI applicant to take back his plea, stop all the proceedings after the death of an applicant, besides take back order of penalising an erring PIO which will open floodgates of threats and abuses aimed at the applicants.