Chapter II Rule 3 of J&K RTI Rules 2012 discusses about payment of RTI application fees. The said rule reads as : "A request for obtaining information under sub-section (1) of section 6 (of J&K RTI Act 2009 ) shall be accompanied by an application fee of rupees ten by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers cheque or Indian Postal Order payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority".
Case study :
An information seeker namely Arifat Aziz D/O Abdul Aziz Wani R/O Kati Mohallah Khonmoh District Srinagar recently filed an application under the provisions of J&K RTI Act 2009. Arifat intended to seek some information regarding recent appointment of Junior Assistants by the J&K State Legal Services Authority. Information seeker had topped the written test but could not find her name in the final selection list which was out after an interview process. The information seeker as per the provisions of State RTI Rules of 2012 attached an Indian Postal Order (PIO) of Rs 10 addressed to Accounts Officer of State Legal Services Authority along with her RTI application. The Postal Order was very rightly addressed to Accounts Officer of J&K Legal Services Authority (JKSLSA), but to her utter surprise the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the said Authority denied to provide the information and instead vide official communication No : SLSA/Estt/ R.B/09/16/8769 Dated: 13.12.2017 directed the Information Seeker to resubmit the Postal Order in favour of Member Secretary of SLSA which is completely incorrect and illegal.
In another case the PIO of Health & Medical Education Department Civil Secretariat Jammu denied to accept a Postal Order sent in favour of Commissioner Secretary Health & Medical Education. The PIO Health & ME Department vide his official letter No: HD/Gaz/RTI/12/2017 Dated: 24.11.2017 directed to deposit the Postal Order in favour of Director Finance Health & Medical Education Department. The information was sought about Consultants and Senior Consultants working in Health & ME Department. Number of posts vacant, OPD timing of these doctors (consultants) etc. The PIO cited aforementioned RTI Rule in this regard. Legally PIO may be right but as per RTI Rules 2012 there is no mention of Director Finance , Chief Accounts Officer , Financial Advisor etc. Rule 3 of Chapter II of J&K RTI Rules only mentions "Accounts Officer".
J&K State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) is a legal body and if Public Information Officer (PIO) of such a legal institution is unaware about the provisions of State RTI Act 2009 or its Rules, then this is a matter of serious concern. I have not touched the issue of selection process made by SLSA recently, but the officers posted in a legal body whose job is to create legal awareness among masses should be well versed with the provisions of RTI Law. I won't fully blame the officer as Government is also very much responsible for it. Section 23 of J&K RTI Act 2009 impresses upon the Government to organize training programmes for Government officers especially PIOs but majority of the designated PIOs and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) in J&K haven't been trained to deal with RTI related cases. J&K RTI Movement has been urging upon the Government from last 8 years to keep a separate budget for RTI awareness but nobody is bothered. I ask authorities why have you enacted this legislation? If law directs Government to create awareness about this act among masses , disadvantaged communities and Government officers why are you reluctant ? In addition to it RTI Rules 2012 needs certain amendments like inclusion of Non Judicial Stamp Paper for payment of application fees. Rule 3 of Chapter II must include following Govt functionaries in whose favour PIO , DD or Cheque can be addressed : Cashier , Accountant , Assistant Accounts Officer (AAO) , Chief Accounts Officer (CAO) and Director Finance. There are only a handful of Government Organisations who have the post of an Accounts Officers (AOs) , while as most of the offices have aforementioned officers / officials looking after accounts section.