Despite increase in the number of information seekers under Right to Information (RTI) Act in Kashmir, a significant aspect of the Act—right to inspection— continues to remain least used thereby incurring huge amounts on them as fee for details running on hundreds of pages.
Very few information seekers invoke the right to inspection of records or public works under RTI Act-2009, the remedy available to avoid paying hefty fee for the information sought on paper.
Dr Raja Muzaffar, an RTI activist of the state said many people have been asked to pay hefty sums as fee.
"I won't accuse only government officials for asking exorbitant fees, but the RTI applicants are also responsible for asking information which spans thousands of pages," he added.
"To overcome this problem the remedy lies in the RTI Act itself. Under the Act (both at central and state level), one can ask for inspection of documents, records, official files and even public works," he said.
"It would be better to ask for inspection of documents and records if one feels the information could be voluminous. The PIOs should also ask the RTI applicants to undertake inspection under Section 2 (i) of J&K RTI Act 2009 if they feel the information sought is huge and will divert their resources," Sheikh Ghulam Rosool, another RTI activist said.
The RTI activists said that in one of the cases, in order to demoralize an information seeker from getting details about works executed by Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department on the banks of river Jhelum from Sonwar to Chattabal Veer in Srinagar, the department asked an information seeker to deposit a whooping amount of Rs 80,000 as photocopying fees which is charged @ Rs 2 per copy.
"The department cannot ask the information seeker to pay Rs 80,000 without proper calculation? This was simply an act to discourage the RTI applicant," said Dr Muzaffar.
The RTI activists said that government also must organize awareness programmes about RTI Act and impress upon the information seekers to invoke right to inspection of documents, records and public work which otherwise is available on hundreds of pages.