Rajya Sabha on April 28, 2016 witnessed unity of its members against RTI Act as cutting across party-lines Parliamentarians criticised RTI Act for its misuse, undoubtedly cases of misuse of RTI Act have been very large and those exposed through RTI are now critics of Act.
However, the Act itself provides effective remedies to deal with such petitions without wasting much time. Most public-authorities are not aware of such provisions due to lack of proper training.
More than 50 percent petitions can be reduced if governments take stringent measures to ensure implementation of very important section (4) of RTI Act on sue-motto disclosures. Further, more can be reduced when Grievance Redressal Bill is passed.
Even public-authorities misuse provisions of RTI Act on queries relating to malpractices of persons seated on high posts like Directorate of Estates in UPA regime usually used to unnecessarily transfer queries relating to encroachment and trespass of government-bungalow number 6, Krishna Menon Marg (New Delhi) to a large number of CPWD offices even though information existed at the Directorate.
Misuse by public can be largely curtailed by increasing RTI fees to rupees fifty with provision to provide first twenty copied pages free-of-cost. Since big contractors file RTI petitions in name of casual labourers of BPL category to get copied documents free-of-cost, provision of free providing of copied documents for people in BPL category can be abolished.
DoPT through Gazette Notification dated March 31, 2012 for such misuse of RTI Act imposed a word-limit of 500 words for filing RTI petitions, because some people had started filing RTI petitions of 50 pages or even more.
Any other dilution of the Act is not proper because the Act is not only proved to be curative but also preventive in exposing and stopping scams and scandals. Misuse of every Act including even dowry Act and post-Nirbhaya Act is reported. Does that mean that India should be made a lawless country by abolishing each and every misused Act?
However, it was interesting that a former Union Minister whose ministry was exposed through RTI Act for misuse of his ministerial post was the most critical in Rajya Sabha discussions!
Another Parliamentarian was never happy with BCCI being demanded to be under RTI Act. It was RTI power that abolished undesired subsidy on food-items sold in Parliamentary canteens, an issue which was considered by a Rajya Sabha member to be a ‘well planned conspiracy’ through ‘misuse’ of RTI Act.
(Writer is Guinness record holder and noted RTI activist)