New RTI rules notified by MP Vidhan Sabha; activists irked

The rules give powers to a Public Information Officer of the authority to accept or reject an application, provide records and make it mandatory for an applicant to disclose public interest before seeking information under the Act.

"The State Public Information Officers or State Assistant Public Information officer may refuse to provide any information after scrutiny if the desired information is beyond jurisdiction of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly secretariat i.e. related to any other department and also intimate the applicant of the decision," the rules said.

As per the notification, "the information sought in respect of more than one subject would not be provided" and "the information regarding the matters which are under consideration with the Speaker and not decided yet would not be provided until decided finally."

Besides it shall be obligatory for the applicant to disclose public interest prior to seeking old or detailed information without which the application shall not be entertained, and the decision of the competent authority in this respect shall be final, according to the rules.

"The information covered under definition of 'record' as provided in the Act only shall be made available and any such information which is in the form of questionnaire and reply of which could only be prepared after assessment, examination and scrutiny may be denied," it said.

Besides "the desired information would be denied in case the language used in the application is detrimental or contrary to the decorum or reputation of the State's Legislative Assembly".

Activists across the State term the new rules by the Assembly's Secretariat as contrary to the purpose of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

"These rules are made to discourage people from taking information. There have been many attempts from various quarters within the State government to curb the effectiveness of this Act," activist Ajay Dubey alleged.

"We plan to protest these....tainted officials are trying to protect their positions by abusing their power of subordinate legislation," he alleged.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Information Commissioner P P Tiwari told PTI, "The changes need
to be made under Section 28 of the RTI Act, 2005 which gives powers to a competent authority to make and notify them. But the authority should not violate any of its provisions."

Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Secretariat officers could not be contacted for their views.

"These new rules are violation of people's rights to seek information under the Act," rued Dubey.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as a nodal agency for the implementation of the RTI Act, has also proposed to restrict the word limit to 250 in an application by making certain changes in the Act and sought people's comments. RTI activists across the country have registered their protests against the move.

The Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Secretariat Right to Information (Procedure, Fees and Regulation of Cost) Rules 2010, have been notified on November 4 this year.
As per the rules, an applicant needs to pay Rs 50 as fees for filing first appeal along with a memorandum.

 

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