Before September 2012, any person intending to seek information under J&K Right to Information Act (RTI) used to draft RTI application on a "Non Judicial" stamp paper. This served two purposes, 1) no extra paper was to be used, and 2) through this stamp paper information seeker paid RTI application fees as well. But when the J&K RTI Rules 2010 were repealed in 2012, not only did the Government snatch autonomy of the State Information Commission (SIC), but it created a problem for the ordinary people as well, by disbanding the use of Non Judicial stamp paper as one of the provisions for paying RTI application fees. Under existing RTI rules people now have four options left for paying RTI application fees. 1) Cash 2) Demand Draft 3) Bankers Cheque 4) Postal Order . But all these provisions have their own flaws which are listed as under:
For paying RTI application fees of Rs 10 in cash one has to visit the Public Authority or Government office himself or herself. On several occasions the cashier is not present in the office , sometimes the GR book is not there. On several occasions Information seeker does not want to have an encounter with the office wherefrom he wants to extract information. If an information seeker wants to send RTI application by speed post , how can he pay fees in cash ?
Demand Draft & Bankers Cheque:
For making a Demand Draft of Rs 10 , one has to be in queue in a bank. He has to pay minimum Rs 10 to Rs 20 extra for getting a DD of Rs 10 prepared . What about those people who don't have banking facility ? The Bankers Cheque is issued by the bank itself . So it has same flaws like Demand Draft.
I can say with authority that 80 % of the Post offices don't have Indian Postal Orders (IPOs) available with them. I myself get postal orders only from GPO Srinagar as smaller post offices hardly sell IPO's. In-fact I tried to seek details from GPO under RTI Act in an excel format about supply of postal orders (IPOs) to various post offices in Kashmir . In his reply GPO's Senior Post Master who is the designated Public Information Officer (PIO) denied to share details about the sale of Indian Postal Orders (PIOs) across various districts of Kashmir. The officer informed me in writing that information under RTI Act cannot be provided in an excel format. What a cruel joke ? The officer seemed unaware that Excel format is an easy mode of providing information. The reply sent via speed post under letter No: RTI /MISC/2015 Dated 20/06 /2016 reads as : " The Information sought to be supplied in an excel format does not fall under the purview of section 2 (F) of Right to Information Act 2005". This reply was sent , just to mislead me, but I could not follow the case in view of the defunct State Information Commission (SIC). I have now filed a complaint before Central Information Commission (CIC).
Stamp Paper :
Non Judicial stamp paper is always available in courts, tehsil offices and other Government offices. Information seekers used to write an RTI petition on this paper or used to attach this stamp paper with an RTI application written on plain paper . But I fail to understand why this people friendly option of paying RTI fees was deleted under the 2012 RTI Rules by previous Government ?
When RTI Rules 2010 were repealed by NC lead Government in 2012 , the present dispensation which was in opposition that time showed its resentment against that move. From last 2 years the present Government has not been able to restore old RTI rules in-spite of being in power. Irony is that State Information Commission (SIC) which is the nerve center of implementing RTI Act has also become defunct during this regime. I hope Government wakes up soon and strengthens the institution of RTI which directly empowers the powerless. The use of Non Judicial Stamp Papers should be allowed and other options like special stamps of Rs 10 denomination should be made available for public at all the Govt offices so that people do not face any difficulty in paying RTI application fees.