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The Delhi High Court last month oversaw the amendment of its own RTI Rules after a writ petition was filed by a group of law students.
In a judgment passed on January 20, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath noted that the High Court had taken steps to ensure that the Delhi High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006 were brought in consonance with the RTI Act.
The petition was filed by Aastha Sharma, Ishwin Mehta, Kumar Shanu and Paras Jain, who are part of WHIP (Whistle for Public Interest), an organisation started to spread awareness on the right to information.
In July 2015, the students noted that the Department of Personnel and Training had requested the registrars of all high courts to harmonize their RTI Fees in consonance with the RTI Rules, 2012 as per the recommendations of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Committee. When they found that the Delhi High Court was charging high application fees, they decided to file a writ petition.
The petition challenged Rules 3 and 10 of the High Court Rules; the former provides for filing of separate applications in case of unrelated information, whereas the latter prescribes an application fee of Rs.50 and an additional Rs. 5 per page for the copies of information sought.
Moreover, the petition points out that there is no provision in the Rules that enables information to be provided free of cost to citizens who are below poverty, something that is mandated under the RTI Act.
When the matter came up for hearing last month, the bench noted that a committee dealing with issues related to right to information had already recommended a reduction of fees, as well as the insertion of a provision to make information free for BPL applicants.
Similar changes were recommended for the Delhi District Courts (Right to Information) Rules, 2008. These recommendations were approved by the Full Court in a meeting held on January 18. As a consequence of the amendment, the application fee is now Rs. 10 and copies of information will cost Rs. 2 per page.
However, the court refused to entertain the challenge of petitioners that Rule 3 was not in conformity with the RTI Act. The judgment states,
“…the Explanation to Rule 3 requires separate applications only where more than one information which is not related to one another is sought. Apparently, the same is intended to prevent frivolous applications seeking roving inquiries into innumerable subjects.”
And they plan to challenge this in the Supreme Court. In a press release the law students commented,
“…the reasoning given by the Bench in sustaining such Rule is neither fulfilling the purpose of the Act nor contemplated by any provision of the Act itself.”
The petitioners argued in person through Paras and Kumar, while Rajiv Bansal appeared for the Registrar General of the High Court.