Govt proposed RTI rules may encourage blackmail, murder: NAC

New Delhi, Jan 20 (PTI) Sonia Gandhi-led NationalAdvisory Council has recommended deletion of some of the RTIrules proposed by the Government, holding they are "legallywrong" while some others may encourage "blackmail" and"murder" of information seekers.

The Government had proposed rules for processing RTIapplications. One of them suggested that one application shallrelate "only to one subject and shall be limited to 250words..."

Objecting to the proposed rule, the NAC has said, "Thiswould be introducing an exemption which is not in the Act. Itis legally wrong for rules to go beyond the Act. The ruleabout a single subject will be open to arbitrariness andmisuse as it is difficult to define."

The Council has also recommended deletion of anotherproposed rule which allowed abatement of proceedings beforethe Information Commission on the death of the appellant,saying such a rule could encourage "murder" of RTI Activists.

"This (abatement of proceedings) could encourage murderof RTI Activists. Besides information sought might often be ofinterest to others apart from the applicant," it said.

The body objected to "allowing withdrawal" of an appealduring the course of hearing at the Information Commission. Itsaid withdrawal of appeals could become a source of"harassment/blackmail".

Going further on the word limit rule, the NAC hasrecommended its deletion, saying "limit of number of words isbad in Law, unrealistic and will militate against ruralapplicants." The council also said there is no evidence thateither a subject or word limit are "widespread problem" in theprocessing of RTI applications.

The council has sent its recommendations to theDepartment of Personnel and Training which had invited publiccomments on the proposed rules.

The suggestions for changes in the rules were formulatedin a meeting of the NAC working group on Transparency,Accountability and Governance on December 13, 2010. Theserecommendations were accessed through an RTI application filedby Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

On the proposal of appointing Chief Executive Officerand Registrar General for Central Information Commission, theNAC has recommended that Information Commissioner should have"freedom to select its staff from among Government Servants orfrom open market. Also, IC should have the freedom toallocate work and responsibility."

The NAC has suggested that Public Information Officerswill have to "personally" bear the cost of "legalrepresentation" during a hearing of appeal or penaltyproceedings before the Central information Commission if theychose to send a representative of theirs to present the case.

The Council has said missing documents should not be acriteria while rejecting an appeal or application by theInformation Commissions. It has also recommended thatinformation should be sent in such a way that proof or receiptremains with the PIOs. It also recommended charging extrapostal charges only when the amount is above Rs 50.

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