NGO Common Cause (2012)
Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit.
Questions of Law:
A Petition was filed in the year 2012 by an NGO Common Cause which attracted the judicial attention towards the imposition of excessive fee from general public seeking information under RTI.
The petition had challenged the Allahabad High Court (RTI) Rules, 2006, on the ground that they were obstructive and were not in consonance with the spirit of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). The petition contended that Rules 3, 4, 5, 20, 25, 26 and 27 of the Allahabad High Court (RTI) Rules, are in clear violation of the different provisions of the RTI Act and also violates Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.
During the initial hearing, Advocate Prashant Bhushan had referred to the specific provisions of the Act to demonstrate that the provisions of the aforesaid Rules are in violation of the provisions of the Act. It was his argument that Rule 4, which prescribes charging an exorbitant fee of Rs. 500 per application, has an effect of abridging the right to information and thus subverts the very object of the Act.
“There can be no doubt that such a high fee is unwarranted and cannot be considered to be reasonable.”
He contended that the application fee of Rs.500 as prescribed in the Rules is more than fifty times the fee prescribed by the Central Government. It was further contended by him that Rule 3 which prescribes that “every application shall be made for one particular item of information” is also ultra vires the RTI Act as there is no such restriction in the Act.
He also referred to an order passed by the Central Information Commission which had held that such stringent restrictive conditions, including such high level of fees, would surely deter citizens from freely seeking information from the HC which was not in conformity with the spirit of RTI Act.
The Allahabad High Court submitted that it was going to consider amending the Rules so as to bring it in consonance with the provisions of the Act. Subsequently, the High Court brought in some amendments and prescribed Rs.250 as application fees.
The Court has directed that RTI fees would be limited to Rs.50 per application and also fixed the upper limit of Rs.5 for photocopying documents required to obtain the information.
The order shall be applicable to all institutions, including high courts, legislative assemblies and other government and autonomous bodies that come within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act
On 15June 2005, THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005 was enacted to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Be it 2G Scam, Commonwealth Games- Diversion of Dalit Funds or Indian Red Cross Society Scam; have come into the picture through RTI Applications filed by various activists. Since the time this Act was enforced, it has brought a feeling of fear in minds of corrupt man and is building a rock-solid connection between government and society which is the foremost objective of a democratic country. It is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it.