In Andhra Pradesh High Court, it is Rs 25. In Delhi High Court, Rs 50. Madras High Court charges Rs 10 while in Allahabad High Court, it is Rs 500. We are here talking about the amount one has to pay for seeking information under Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. And that is not all. The whopping amount is just for one particular piece of information sought. It means that if one wants answers to five different questions, he may end up paying Rs 2500!
Amidst doubts about the court's willingness to part with information, many RTI activists including advocates and civil society members have been taking up the issue and had filed petitions. They say that the rules completely dilute the provisions and discourage people from making full use of the provisions of the act. The fee, however, still continues to be the same. "The High Court rules defeat the entire purpose of the act. I have even filed a petition in the High Court regarding the matter," says Arvind Kejriwal, RTI campaigner.
"Though the court is authorised to fix the fee, the act also says that it should be reasonable. This rate is unreasonably high," he adds.
Notably, under the RTI Act, heads of different government institutions are allowed to frame their own rules to implement its provisions. Section 28 of the RTI Act empowers the competent authorities including courts to set an application fees payable with public information officer of the court concerned before filing an application form. Making full use of its powers, the high court has pegged the fee at Rs 500 per item for a single application. There is also an additional charge of Rs 15 per page of the information sought. Though many other courts including Patna High Court also charges Rs 500 but only in specific cases like information related to tenders, bids, quotations etc.
"The fee is very high as compared to other states. I have challenged the decision," RK Jain, advocate form Allahabad, says.
Rule number 4 of Allahabad High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2005 reads, "Each application shall be accompanied by cash or draft or pay order of R 500 in favour of the registrar general, High Court, Allahabad or district judge of the concerned district court".
A ruling by a full bench of the commission, headed by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Justice MA Khan (September 24, 2007) requested the High Court to change the exorbitant fee being charged by the court for a single item in an applciation.
"While pursuing many requests from public regarding the huge fees being sought, we came to know that the fee was too much. We requested the High Court to bring down the charges," Gyanendra Mishra, state information commissioner and one of the bench members of the hearing.
When contacted Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court Subodh Kumar said, "We have set the fees in the capacity of a competent authority. A recommendation received from State Information Commission in this connection was also rejected."