'Use tech to give RTI replies to differently-able'

'Use tech to give RTI replies to differently-able'

Top court says information makes one empowered

The Supreme Court has told the Union and state governments to explore the use of advanced technology in providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the visually impaired people.

The top court said the information makes one empowered.

“The right to acquire and to disseminate information has been regarded as an intrinsic component of freedom of speech and expression,” it said.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said differently-abled people, which includes the visually impaired, should have a functional-facility to receive the information as permissible under the Act.

“They should not be deprived of the benefit of such a utility,” the court said.

On a writ petition filed by Aseer Jamal, the bench said, “We think it's appropriate to ask the authorities to explore any kind of advanced technology that has developed in the meantime so that other methods can be introduced.”

The petitioner contended that Section 6 of the RTI Act violated the fundamental right to equality with regard to illiterates and the visually impaired people as it mandated that the application, seeking information, must be made in writing, to the authorities concerned.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, however, said that according to the provision, it was obligatory on the part of the central public information officer or state public information officer to render all reasonable assistance to the persons making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.

He also pointed out several states provided information in Braille since the year 2012.

“Every time the authority receives an RTI application seeking information in Braille, it prepares a reply in the printed format and forwards it to the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped where it is converted to Braille,” he said.

Giving the example of Bihar, Venugopal said that the visually impaired residents of the state were the first in the country to get the copies under the RTI Act and the rules for its implementation in Braille script.

He said that Audio files were also being prepared.

He gave a chart indicating several hotline numbers providing toll-free access to information were available on the RTI website.

In view of the submission, the court said that if any representation was made of further difficulties, it should be dealt with requisite “concern, sympathy and empathy”.

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