Right to Information
Four law students take Delhi High Court to Court over exorbitant RTI fees; win
In a landmark decision, the Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, amended the RTI Rules 2006 of the HC, while hearing a PIL filed by four law students, bringing the fees at par with other public authorities
 
Four young law students, Paras Jain, Kumar Shanu, Aastha Sharma and Ishwin Mehta, admirably took the Delhi High Court to Court for charging exorbitant fees for providing information under Right to Information (RTI) Act. They argued the case themselves without taking help from a professional lawyer and on 2 February 2016, won the verdict in their favour.
 
The students said they were shocked to read news reports, wherein the Chief Justice of the High Court, as a Competent Authority for framing RTI Rules in Courts, was charging exorbitant fees ranging from Rs50 to Rs500.
 
They studied the Delhi High Court RTI Rules, 2006. “We found the rules were arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the Fundamental Right viz Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and against the letter and spirit of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” says Paresh Jain.
 
They objected to the following rules:
 
a) Exorbitant Fees prescribed under Rule 10 of the Delhi High Court RTI Rules, 2006 i.e. Rs50 as application fee and Rs5 per page for obtaining the photostat/ physical/ Xerox Copies.
 
b) No provision for supply of information at free of cost for the citizens falling under below poverty line (BPL) category, which is a mandatory provision under the main Act to provide free access to information to such citizens.
c) Provision of filing separate applications for each unrelated information as per Rule 3 of the Delhi High Court RTI Rules, 2006
 
Jain says, “While the RTI Act prescribes Rs10 as application fee and Rs2 per page for providing photostat copies, the HC's rules had laid down the application fee of Rs50 and Rs5 per page, respectively, for copies.’’ 
 
They filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court in October 2015. Paras Jain and Kumar Shanu argued this matter in person without taking help from any advocate before the Division Bench of Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. They got the first two rules a) and b) amended in conformity with the provisions of the main RTI Act. The Bench, however, rejected main contention of the petitioners (students) on quashing of Rule 3 of the Delhi, which asks to file a separate RTI application for each information.
 
Jain says, “There is no provision in the RTI Act for filing separate applications in case of unrelated information, but Rule 3 of the Delhi High Court Rules states that for each piece of information sought, a separate application should be made.” 
 
The Court stated that the provision was required as it prevents frivolous applications seeking roving inquiries into various subjects.
 
The law students have decided to challenge the Bench’s refusal to amend Section 3 of the Delhi HC Rules before the Supreme Court, while affirming that the reasoning given by the Bench was neither fulfilling the purpose of the Act nor contemplated by any provision of the Act itself.
 
The law students said that the objective of the RTI Act to ensure “maximum disclosure and minimum exemption” could only be achieved when an applicant was allowed to seek multiple information under one application.
 
Before joining law school and while studying at final level of Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI), Jain in his personal capacity as a student, had challenged before Division Bench headed by Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, the arbitrary and unreasonable rules of ICSI charging Rs500 per subject from the students for getting the copy of answer-sheets. This, he said, was despite the decision of Supreme Court of India in CBSE versus Aditya Bandhopadhyay (Civil Appeal 6454/2011), which established that answer-script of examinees is an information and hence, it must be provided under the RTI Act. The said Bench ordered the ICSI to provide the copy of answer-sheets at Rs2 per page, which is prescribed under RTI Act.
 
Box: Comparable fees before the High Court order
 
 
The students have their own forum called Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP). This is a group representing public-spirited law students, who tackle issues through legal research, filing RTI applications, drafting petitions and arguing the matters in person without engaging advocates, before High Court, Supreme Court and other quasi-judicial authorities.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also 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 and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)

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COMMENTS

BR

1 year ago

Would Moneylife inform the two parties one in Arunachal Pradesh( link is in my first comment below but I do not know how to contact him) & Delhi students of each other's success. It will help all activists to join to at least exchange infmn. Money life has done a good job of publishing both reports A.

manoharlalsharma

1 year ago

there r two sections r running in to courts if u ask for certified copy they simply not to redirect under section 6 but call to the concerned applicant and ask to go to certified section and re apply./the attitude show do not come us again.

Simple Indian

1 year ago

Kudos to these 4 law students for having taken up a matter in the interest of the masses. It's a pity the HC framed rules which were not in the letter n spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 itself. When the interpreters and adjudicators of law themselves violate the spirit of the laws, then it is highly undesirable and an unhealthy precedent.
We need more such lawyers to take up public interest litigation or PILs as they are popularly referred to.

vswami

1 year ago

Thinking aloud:
“They argued the case themselves without taking help from a professional lawyer and on 2 February 2016, won the verdict in their favour.”

Should not this be considered to give the impetus, and provide a helpful clue to the ongoing debate as to how best or what direction be ideally taken to give a hard push to the SC's concern in having "started the arduous task of initiating "long overdue" reforms in legal education” ! – vide (latest):http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india...

Annika

1 year ago

YESS! WELL DONE!!

BR

1 year ago

Moneylufe reported earlier of a similar case in ArunachalPradesh http://www.moneylife.in/article/how-an-a...#.VqSiVL0U7_Q.mailto

B Pugazhendhi

1 year ago

An encouraging development. Happy to note the interest youngsters are taking in RTI. One wonders how, in the first place, the guardians of law made such a rule!?

REPLY

Annika

In Reply to B Pugazhendhi 1 year ago

The so-called guardians of law consider themselves above the law XD

Budget has given RBI space to cut rates: Jayant Sinha
New Delhi : The union budget 2016-17, with the target of holding the next fiscal's deficit at 3.5 percent of GDP, has given space to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to ease interest rates, union Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said on Thursday.
 
"Macroeconomic stability is fundamental to ensuring that monetary policy has space. If we don't provide that monetary policy space by generally a tighter fiscal policy, we cannot expect monetary policy to loosen up," he said at an event here organised by Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.
 
"So, that is the kind of environment we have tried to create on the macro side.
 
"There was fiscal consolidation, the current account deficit came down, inflation came down. As that happened, interest rate, which was very high over 10-12 percent, came down quite dramatically," he added.
 
Declaring that prudence lies in adhering to fiscal targets, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, presenting the budget on Monday, retained the much-awaited figure of fiscal deficit for the current financial year at 3.9 percent of GDP, and at 3.5 percent for 2016-17 but added he had also ensured that the development agenda is not compromised.
 
The fiscal deficit for 2014-15 touched 4.1 percent of the GDP.
 
Meanwhile, India's services sector activity fell to a three-month low amidst subdued growth in new orders, key macro-economic data showed on Thursday.
 
The Nikkei Business Activity index fell to a three-month low of 51.4 in February, from 54.3 in January, adding to expectations of a rate cut by the RBI.
 
At its sixth and the fiscal's final bi-monthly monetary policy review last month, RBI kept its key lending rate unchanged at 6.75 percent.
 
"The Reserve Bank continues to be accommodative even as it leaves the policy rate unchanged in this review, while awaiting further data on inflation," Governor Raghuram Rajan said in his policy statement.
 
India's consumer price indexed (CPI), or retail, inflation has been rising. As per data released last month, annual retail inflation moved up further to 5.69 percent in January, from 5.61 percent in the month before.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Accidents cost India Rs.1.7 lakh crore losses annually
Kolkata : India loses $35 billion each year in road accidents, which is slightly less than the nation's defence budget, a road safety expert said here on Thursday.
 
According to Kamaljit Soi, member of the National Road Safety Council of the ministry of road transport and highways, India is "losing a little less" than its defence budget each year on road accidents.
 
"This is about Rs.1 lakh 70,000 crore in road accidents every year. Human life has become very cheap," Soi told the media here.
 
Emphasising the gravity of the situation, he said: "65 percent of the people who are causing accidents are illiterate. Number of deaths is more in the 15 to 44 age group."
 
Queried on the Kolkata hit-and-run case in which an Indian Air Force officer was killed during the Republic Day Parade rehearsal, and subsequent arrest of prime accused Sambia Sohrab, whose father was a leader of West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, Soi said it's a "good step if action has been initiated in the matter."
 
"Nobody is above the law," Soi, who is also the chairman of Raahat (The Safe Community Foundation), asserted.
 
In the same vein, he said the Bombay High Court ruling in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case, in which he was acquitted, was a "bad example" for the nation.
 
"Everybody should be treated in the same manner. I had vehemently opposed this during the time," he added.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

MG Warrier

1 year ago

We talk about poverty, healthcare and other social security issues more and these are getting some attention in the media, though not enough attention from policy makers. Accidents, as they happen in isolation, affecting mostly those near and dear to those getting injured or lose lives, there is no strong lobby to campaign for measures that can prevent some of the accidents on land and in water-bodies. A case study could be that of accidents in Mumbai suburban locals. The causes can be traced to over-crowding of compartments, inadequate safety provisions and so on. While an auto-rikshaw will not be allowed to take more than 3 passengers, just imagine the number of passengers traveling in a bogie of a suburban local during peak hours. Regarding road accidents, many a time the cause is ‘less respect’ for traffic discipline. We take more care to protect comparatively richer citizens from accidents or at least give them faster, better care when they are affected by accidents.

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