Should the applicant and the Public Information Officer follow the amended rules of the state government or abide by the National RTI Act? There’s a lot of conflict, say experts
The Maharashtra government’s amended RTI (Right to Information) rules are in straight conflict with that of the national RTI Act. This has led to a cloud of confusion amongst RTI applicants and Public Information Officers (PIOs), say RTI experts. One wonders whether this was indeed the intention of the government so as to dilute the RTI movement in the state.
Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI activist from Pune, has made the following analysis:
1. The only 150 words restriction: As per the amendment, the RTI applicant is permitted to ask a question on only a single subject matter and restrict his question to 150 words only. (Rule - 3A of Maharashtra’s amended rules: - Request relate only to single subject matter: - A request in writing for information under Section 6 of the Act shall relate to one subject matter and it shall not ordinarily exceed one hundred and fifty words , if an applicant wishes to seek information on more than one subject matter , he shall make separate applications; provided that , in case the request made relates to more than one subject matter, the public information officer may respond to the request relating to the first subject matter only and may advice the applicant to make separate applications for each of other subject matters.)
Mr Kumbhar argues as follows: For example, ifthe PIO receives a RTI application which has queries relating to two different departments:
• As per the Maharashtra’s amended rules, the PIO will respond only to the first query and will advice the applicant to make a separate application for his second question.
• However, as per the national RTI Act’s Section 6 (3) rule, it is responsibility of PIO to transfer application to other public authority. The rule says: (6 (3) - Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information,— (i) which is held by another public authority; or (ii) The subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.)
So, what should the PIO do? Should he obey the national RTI Act or the amended rules of the Maharashtra government?
2. The answering of only the first question dilemma: The PIO receives a RTI application related to multiple subject matters which require more than one public authority to give the replies. Maharashtra’s amended rules state: “the public information officer may respond to the request relating to the first subject matter only and may advice the applicant to make separate applications for each of other subject matters."
Mr Kumbhar argues: Suppose, the first subject matter is not concerned with the public authority which receives the request, what should the PIO do? Answer the next subject matter related to his public authority or transfer the application under section 6 (3) of the Act or ask the applicant to file another RTI application to the relevant authority?
• As per the Maharashtra’s amended rules, “the PIO may respond to the first subject matter only.”
• As per Section 6 (3) (excerpted above) of the national RTI Act, it is the PIO’s duty to transfer the application to the relevant PIO within five days from the date of application.
So, what should the PIO do? Should he follow Maharashtra’s amended rules or the national RTI Act?
3. Regarding the number of words in a RTI application: How does the PIO calculate that the application contains 150 words? Does that mean words including words given in format Rule 3 of Maharashtra RTI rules? There are about 65 to 70 words in that format; if we count 50 words for other matter including the applicant and PIO’s name and other things , only 30 to 35 words remains to write in the column “subject matter of information” and “description of information required”. Are these number of words sufficient to make a request?
• As per Maharashtra’s amended rules: If we go strictly by the words written in rule that “subject matter” shall not ordinarily exceed 150 words , then the applicant gets 150 words to write in the column “subject matter of information”, and “description of information required”. There’s too much confusion here. too.
Opines Maj Gen Sudhir Jatar (retd), “the points are well taken.Strictly, confusion has now been confounded.YASHADA should take up for amending the rules to make them compliantwith the Act and take into account the valid points raised byVijay Kumbhar.Until then, the PIO should show maturity and try to help theinformation seeker as much as possible without being a “lakeer ka faker”!!
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])
According to Tanya Thakur, the Common Law Admission Test 2012, had questions which were not within the prescribed syllabus
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has issued a notice to the National Law University (NLU), Jodhpur while hearing a petition filed by a class 12 student which stated that the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2012 was conducted in gross violation of its own specific syllabus. The petitioner has also demanded fresh examination.
Tanya Thakur, the petitioner, said the NLU Jodhpur had mentioned that General Knowledge (GK) section will only test students on their knowledge of current affairs, i.e. matters featuring in the mainstream media between March 2011 and March 2012. Similarly for Legal Aptitude it said that this section will test students only on legal aptitude and not any prior knowledge of law or legal concepts. If a legal term is used it will be explained in the question itself.
However, “in contradiction to what the organizing institution said, at least 22-25 questions in the GK section came much beyond the current affairs period. Similarly, there were many legal terms in Legal Aptitude section that was not defined,” says Ms Thakur, who had also taken the entrance exam.
Considering the urgency in the matter, justice SS Chauhan issued a notice to NLU, Jodhpur to explain its position and fixed the next date of hearing on 28th May. The result of the entrance exam is also expected on the same date.
The CLAT is an all-India entrance examination conducted by 14 National Law Schools/Universities for admissions to their under-graduate (Bachelors of Law LLB) and post-graduate degree (Masters of Law- LLM) programmes. The CLAT 2012 was held on 13th May at 46 centres in 20 cities across the country. NLU, Jodhpur was the organizing institute for CLAT 2012.
According to the petition, the situation was even worse for the Legal Aptitude section. “As far as the petitioner can remember, there were a very large number of legal terms in the Legal Aptitude section which was technical/legal in nature but none of these terms were explained or clarified. She says that most of these questions were from the Contract Act but the terms like void, voidable, void ab initio and many other legal terms were not at all defined or explained.”
According to the Times of India, CLAT’s organising committee had refuted all charges stating that the question paper was set by the experts with questions within the frame work.
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