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Restricting RTI queries
The Department of Personnel recommends limiting RTI applications to one subject and a maximum of 250 words. A fee may be required if any equipment is hired for gathering information. RTI activists strongly condemn the recommendation.

According to proposed amendments in the RTI rules, the DOPT, nodal body for implementing the Act in the country, has said each application will be limited to 250 words excluding the address of the public authority and applicant.

It will also be limited to only one subject matter. Even more surprising is the fact that RTI applicants will have to pay the "actual amount" spent by public authority on hiring a machine or any other equipment, if any, to supply information.

The rules will be a modification of the present RTI (regulation of fee and cost) rules, 2005 and the central information commission (appeal procedure) rules, 2005.

The DOPT has sought the comments on these changes from public on email id "usrti-dovt@nic.in" by 27th December 2010.

The rules have resulted in furore among RTI activists who say that they will be of no good to semi-literate and illiterate people who are the main users of the law.

"Though Comments being sought from Civil Society though in accordance with Section 4(1)(c) of the RTI Act, however this notification gets limited to only those who are net friendly and that too only two weeks time given," Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra said.

He said people from rural areas who do not have internet access will be devoid of sending their views on the subject. 

"Putting a word limit of 250 words will obstruct the Right to Information. There was very minute number of people who misused the provisions of RTI applications by asking large number of questions but there are enough powers to reject such applications. There was no need for such limits on word usage," said Subhash Agrawal, another RTI activist. 

"The new rules widen the ambit of discretionary use by the concerned Public Information Officer who can reject the applications summarily," Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said.

He asked how can the Government set a limit of words especially when same set of questions in different languages will require different word usage.

He also said legally the process of RTI starts when application is submitted to a PIO.

"The State cannot dictate the user to set word limit before process starts. Instead the CPIO should be empowered to ask the appellant to prioritise the information, in case of voluminous information." he said.

Source: DD News