Non-resident Indians (NRIs) also have a right to seek information under the provision of Right to Information (RTI) Act, says a reply corrected by the Lok Sabha. Delhi-based RTI activist, commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd) had received a reply that NRIs were not eligible to file an RTI application. Cmde Batra took up the issue with all authorities about ineligibility of NRIs to file RTI.
The rectified response to an unstarred question by Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister's office (PMO), now states, "All citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005. Non-resident Indian citizens are eligible to file RTI applications."
Cmde Batra says, "It is not every day the government accepts mistake of this kind leading to correction of response given by a minister of state that too under the PMO. I had shared the Moneylife
story to all concerned at highest level to make necessary rectification." (Read: RTI Reveals Government Doesn’t Know Who Is an NRI
Varsha Sinha, director in the US-RTI division in the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) told Cmde Batra that "The corrected reply to the Lok Sabha Question No.3535 has been uploaded on the official site of the Lok Sabha on 26 October 2018."
Here is the rectified reply as provided by Ms Sinha...
After the faulty reply from the minister in the Lok Sabha, Cmde Batra (retd) had filed an RTI application with the DoPT to get some clarity on the definition of an NRI. "As I understand it, NRIs are very much citizens of India, holding an Indian passport, but whose stay abroad exceeds 182 days in any financial year. Thus, NRIs also have the right to seek information under the provision of the RTI Act, 2005," he had said.
In fact, the government, in its circular in 2013 had stated under 'Right of NRIs' that "…under the current provisions of the RTI Act, NRIs can file RTI applications seeking information either from a particular Mission or Post abroad or from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) itself. Accordingly, a fee of Rs10 per application, equivalent in local currency is accepted by Missions and Posts abroad."
Despite this, the minister made a statement, in August 2018, that NRIs cannot file an RTI application, although they have been given the facility in over 176 countries through missions and posts.
With the rectification from the Lok Sabha, the route for NRIs to file RTI application for seeking information from Indian public authorities is now clear.