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

3 years 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

3 years 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

3 years 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

3 years 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

3 years ago

YESS! WELL DONE!!

BR

3 years ago

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

B Pugazhendhi

3 years 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 3 years ago

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

Use RTI to procure your medical information

Senior journalist Chitra Subramaniam has taken Manipal Hospitals to Consumer Court for medical negligence and using non-standard implants for her ankle surgery. She can also use the RTI Act to obtain information from hospitals through the regulatory authority

 

Noted journalist, Chitra Subramaniam, has taken Manipal Hospitals to the Consumer Court for gross medical negligence and wilfully providing false and dangerously misleading information about implants, which did not meet standards. Her complaint in a Bangalore court relates to her ankle surgery in January 2014 where implants to correct a fracture did not meet medical standards. 
 
The press statement issued by Crestlaw Partners, a Bangalore-based law firm states that, “Ms Subramaniam’s life was put at grave risk by the use of faulty implants, details of which were never given to her despite repeated pleas and several meetings with Swami Swaminathan, Executive Chairman of Manipal Health Enterprises.” 
 
“Manipal Hospitals and Dr Murlidhar Rao – the orthopaedic surgeon who operated on Ms Subramaniam at Manipal Northside Hospital in Malleswaram – repeatedly provided wrong and misleading information, claiming it was given to them by the Indian arm of Synthes, the Switzerland-based subsidiary of the global conglomerate Johnson and Johnson.”
 
The consumer complaint case has been filed against the Hospital’s Chairman-Medical Advisory Board and Medical Director Dr H Sudarshan Ballal, and Dr Murlidhar Rao, who operated on her ankle and an Indian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
 
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a decision by the Central Information Commission (CIC) makes it mandatory for all private hospitals to maintain daily reports of medical records of patients and provide them the information. The CIC had recommended the central and state government to “force” private hospitals to give medical records of patients on a daily basis and be transparent about it. It also quoted Section 2 of the RTI Act under which it is mandatory for private hospitals to provide information as treatment comes under “services”.
 
The CIC, in its order of 4th July, 2015 posed these questions before itself –“The issues before the Commission are:  a) Whether information sought by appellant in this case is ‘information’ as per section 2(f)?  b) Whether this Commission has power under RTI Act, to enforce the Right to information of the appellant against a body, which is not held to be public authority, by directing the respondent public authority to collect the information by exercising their regulatory power?  c) Whether the Commission has power to consider the authorities of private hospitals as deemed PIOs and proceed against them with penal actions for breach of RTI Act by obstructing the supply of information? 
 
CIC concluded: ‘Information’ under section 2(f) 16.  This Commission has examined the issue of right of patient to have the medical records in Nisha Priya Bhatia v Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences GNCTD, and stated “the Patient has a right to his/her medical record and Respondent Hospital Authorities have a duty to provide the same under Right to Information Act, 2005, Consumer Protection Act, 1986, The Medical Council Act as per world medical ethics.
 
“The Commission recommended the Public Authority to develop a timeframe mechanism of disclosure of medical records to patients or their relatives with safeguards for privacy and confidentiality of the patient.” 
 
In that order, the Commission referred to various legislations.
 
“We need to refer to provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to ascertain whether appellant has the right to information about her own medical record. 
Right to information under RTI and Consumer Protection Act: 17.   
Expression “Consumer’’ is defined in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986:     
S 2(1) (d) "consumer" means any person who, ¬(i) [omitted] (ii) hires (or avails of) any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires (or avails of) the service for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and   partly   promised,   or   under   any   system   of   deferred   payment,   when   such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person,
Similarly as per Section 2(1)(o) : "service" means –  “service of any description which is made available to the potential users and includes the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, (housing construction), entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service.”
 
The CIC decision of 4 July, 2015  recommends “forcing” private hospitals to provide daily medical records states “The Commission recommends the Government of India, states and Union Territories besides the respondent authority in this case, to take necessary steps to enforce the right to information, i.e., forcing the private hospitals to give medical records of the patients on day to day basis, because this daily disclosure will prevent undesirable practices of altering records after damage caused to patient.”
 
“Forcing the private hospitals to provide daily-wise medical records will also act as a check on some hospitals from resorting to extortionist, inhuman and ruthless business of prescribing unnecessary diagnostic tests, unnecessary   surgical   operations,   caesarean   deliveries,   unwarranted   angioplasties, inserting stents, without need, or of substandard nature, or putting low quality stent while collecting price of high quality stent, and several such malpractices amounting to medical terrorism, etc. They should not be allowed to such malpractices with all impunity and get away   without   any   legal   consequences   as   if   there   is   an   absolute   immunity.   The Government, Medical Council of India and the health regulatory has to see that licence to practice medicine will not become licence to kill and extort and come to the rescue of helpless patients.”
 
This order was a sequel to Delhi based RTI applicant, Prabat Kumar, who appealed to the CIC. As per the details quoted in the CIC order, his father was admitted into the hospital with the complaint of constipation, but he was kept in the ICU. He spent nearly Rs18 lakh on his father’s treatment in the Fortis Hospital, and in spite of that his father expired during the treatment.  
 
The CIC Order states: “The appellant claimed that, being son of patient, who is party to the contract and consumer besides being victim of treatment, he has right to know the details of diagnosis, treatment and the prescriptions of the doctors who have attended him. When (the) Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) wrote to the Hospital seeking the details of treatment given to his father, the Hospital denied. Hence, appellant was compelled to use RTI for information from private hospital through the respondent public authority, the regulatory authority of the hospitals. Appellant complained that the respondent authority has forwarded reply received from the private hospital without taking any regulatory steps to secure the information as per the law.
 
The CIC order noted: “It is the legitimate right of the son of the deceased patient to know such details of treatment, which the hospital also contractually bound to supply,   having received a consideration (payment) from the deceased’s family. It could not only be breach of contract by the hospital, but also breach of the provisions of Medical Council Act, 1971. The respondent authority being the regulatory authority, is expected to enforce the law and come to the rescue of the deceased’s family, when the rights are being violated by a private or public hospital.   (Read full order here: http://jksic.nic.in/E%20-library/Prabat%20KUmar%20-%20Fortis.pdf )
 
As for Chitra, the press statement stated, “She lives with multiple myeloma, a life-threatening cancer of the bone marrow. Regular MRIs are part of routine check-ups. The faulty implants made MRIs impossible and the implants had to be removed by a second surgery. Ms Subramaniam has publicly spoken out about her diagnosis and advocates internationally for access to affordable treatment including cancer treatment.”
 
(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

Charav C

2 years ago

Hello Madam. Is it possible to seek information relating to medical services obtained earlier than 3 years. Also, how do we seek information on the doctor's/agent's referral amounts paid by the hospitals. Do they maintain separate records of all such amounts paid by the hospitals.

shakuntala

2 years ago

the system should be made strict for providing information under RTI Act and the Doctors should honour the RTI Act and should provide information under law.

Hema Malini's dance academy destroyed mangroves on previously allotted land, RTI reply reveals
Hema Malini was allotted a land at Versova village, but her Trust was issued a notice by the Collector's office for destroying mangroves on adjoining plot, a violation of CRZ
 
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s member of Parliament (MP) Hema Malini's dance academy had on previous occasion destroyed mangroves on the land allotted, thus violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Act, reveals a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
 
As per the information received by RTI activist Anil Galgali, in 1997, the now BJP MP was allotted a plot admeasuring 1,741.89 sq meters at Versova village for the dance academy. Hema Malini's Natyavihar Kala Kendra Charity Trust paid Rs10 lakh to obtain a letter of intent. 
 
However, after finding some issues, the Mumbai Suburban District Collector on 28 August 1998 issued a show cause notice to the Trust. The notice states difference in the area of land allotted and area mentioned in the project report submitted by the Trust. Since the Trust had submitted a report that shows just 25% of funds available as against the project cost, the government asked the Trust's plans to raise the balance. 
 
The Mumbai Suburban District Collector's letter also specifically states about destruction of mangroves by the Trust on adjoining land, which according to it was violation of CRZ.  The show cause notice, which sought an explanation within 10 days, was not even responded to by the Trust, nor did the Collector's office take any action, Galgali said.
 
Since a portion of that land was effected with CRZ regulations, Hema Malini had not undertaken any construction on the land and instead sought another land from the government. On 23 December 2015, the government allotted 2,000 sq Mtrs from a total land admeasuring 29,360.50 sq mtrs reserved for Garden in Ambivili village near Andheri.
 
Galgali said, "On the basis of the facts before the government, the new land allotment was initiated by this govt by ignoring the previous violations and the Principal Secretary (Revenue) also overlooked the issue by not going through the past records. Serious violation of destruction of mangroves was overlooked and while taking no action the issue was glossed over and the new government has misused the rule of valuation of 1976 and allotted another land in lieu of the old one for pittance Rs 70,000 at village Ambivili admeasuring 2,000 sq mtrs and the land being reserved for Garden." 
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