Nabam Pali, a young RTI activist from Arunachal Pradesh was felicitated last week, for having sought legal intervention, compelling the state government to reduce fees to Rs2 from Rs10 for obtaining copies of documents under the Act
The official website of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has this announcement, declaring that it has reduced the fees for information procured under RTI from Rs10 to Rs2:
“In the State of Arunachal Pradesh, the High Court directive has reduced the fees for information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from Rs10 per page (A4 size) to Rs2 by re-amending the RTI rules vide Government of Arunachal Pradesh Notification No.AR-47/2014 dated 13 November, 2014. The Guwahati High Court, Itanagar Permanent Bench, Naharlagun while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one Pali Nabam challenging the high fee charged for obtaining information under RTI in the state, has directed the state government to reduce the fee from Rs10 per copy to Rs2.”
The young activist Nabam Pali, from Arunachal Pradesh, has been fighting the case since 2012. He filed a writ petition in the form of PIL. The High Court ordered the state government to address the grievance of the petitioner within three weeks of the order, the AP government notified the revision of fees.
Nabam Pali, like other citizens of the state, found the fees of Rs10 per page of information document too steep, particularly when, in 2012, he asked for 57,570 pages of documents pertaining to the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme, which is one of India's largest programmes for early childhood development. He was asked to pay Rs5,75,700 by the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Office of the Child Development Project, which he did pay with the help of friends.
As per last week’s news reports in various dailies of Arunachal Pradesh, Pali, while thanking the Arunachal RTI activist Forum (ARTIAF) for felicitating him, stated that the road was very tough for him. “When I initially started filing RTIs in 2007-08, the officers used to charge me Rs50 for an application, which was not right and I had to spend a huge amount of money as treasury challan to get the information. I somehow managed to arrange the money then but what about the poor ones who cannot afford it,” said Pali showing records of him paying Rs3.40 lakh and Rs1. 21 lakh in two instances as treasury challan to get information.
When contacted by Moneylife, Pali said, “Officers of various departments used to charge huge fees to give out information, which is unjust but they did so because they want to hide information so the poor cannot file RTIs. That was the reason I filed a PIL in a single bench High Court at Naharlagun requesting them to reduce the application fees to Rs2 from Rs10 as the charge to file an RTI in many states are very less and even free in some.”
In its order, the High Court stated, “…the petitioners have challenged the provisions of the Arunachal Pradesh Right to Information (6thamendment) Rule 2010 whereby the rate of per page intimation was increased from Rs2 to Rs10. Having regard to the objectives and reasons for which the Right to Information Act was promulgated is frustrated because of such exorbitant rate in respect of information to be provided to the applicant.”
“Mr K Ete, learned Additional Advocate General, Arunachal Pradesh, upon instruction, submits that such increase has been made as per the cabinet decision dated 15 July 2010. As per his instruction, the rate was earlier fixed at Rs5 in 2005. Thereafter, it was reduced to Rs2 and now by the impugned amendment, the rate is fixed at Rs10. He submits that as per his instruction, the cabinet is desirous of revisiting the matter regarding such fixation of rate.”
“In view of the above submission, the PIL is disposed providing that the cabinet and for that matter the appropriate authority of the state government may consider the grievance raised in the writ petition as expeditiously as possible, preferably within three months. If the petitioners remain aggrieved by the decision to be taken by the authority, it will be open for them to pursue such legal remedy as may be available to law.”
Arunachal Pradesh, Department of Administrative Reforms, promptly acted upon the HC verdict and on 11 November 2014, notified that “for information in the form of communication, letter etc- Rs2 per page; for other than priced publication- Rs2 per page; For information on CD or DVD – actual price; Inspection of records – free for the 1st hour and for the subsequent each 15 minutes, Rs5.”
It has been a long struggle, says Pali, before his campaign was converted into action by the government.