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The Supreme Court has called on the government to consider exploring any kind of advanced technology to aid the differently-abled gain functional access to the benefits of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud made the observation while disposing of a petition seeking changes in the RTI law citing insufficient access for differently-abled persons, illiterate persons and Below Poverty Line (BPL) applicants.
Authoring the judgment for the Bench, Chief Justice Misra stated,
“… differently abled persons, which include visually impaired persons, should have the functional facility to receive such information as permissible under the Act. They should not be deprived of the benefit of such a utility …
… information makes one empowered. Additionally, we think it 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.”
Allied views were expressed by the Court yesterday while upholding the state’s ambitious Aadhaar Project, when it expressed support for the use of technology as a vital tool for ensuring good governance.
In the instant case, however, the Court declined to entertain the petitioner’s prayers seeking changes in the RTI law. This, after the Court found that there were adequate provisions in the RTI Act to redress the apprehensions raised.
For instance, Section 6(1) of the RTI Act requires the concerned authority to provide all reasonable assistance if an applicant seeking information is unable to reduce his request in writing.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, who was called to assist in the case, informed the Court that differently-abled persons could also invoke this provision where they are unable to make requests for information from the authorities by themselves. The Court also noted that Section 6(3) obligates the information authority to ensure that the application is transferred to the appropriate jurisdictional information officer.
As for the plight of BPL applicants, the Right to Information Rules, 2012 already provide for limits on the fee to be paid as well as exemptions where the applicant cannot pay on account of economic constraints.
The Court was also informed that several States had implemented measures to provide RTI information in braille for visually challenged applicants. Apart from braille versions, audio files of the Act and relevant rules were also being prepared, the AG submitted.
In view of these observations, the Court agreed with the AG that there was no need for it to issue any further direction in the matter. However, it remarked that if the petitioner were to point out any improvement on the technological side to aid his cause, cognizance of the same could be taken by the Court.
Before parting with the case the Court also expressed hope the State authorities would also endeavour to bring about moreimprovements in this regard.
“We are also certain that the authority shall, with all sincerity and concern, explore further possibilities with the available on-line application/mechanism.“
Read the Judgment: