Is a BPL citizen entitled to have priced publications free of cost?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting seeking for the published copy of all books/ publications on all subjects in all languages published by the Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting free of cost stating that he was a person below poverty line (BPL). The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed that the books and journals of the Publications Division were priced publications and could not be supplied free of cost. The PIO provided a copy of the catalogue of all the publications.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant argued that Rule 4(e) of the RTI Rules 2012 states that a priced publication could be made available either against the price fixed for it or at the rate of two rupees per page of photocopy for extracts from the publication. He claimed that accordingly the priced publications of the Publications Division should be made available to him free of charge as he is a person below poverty line. The respondent submitted that the desired information were already available in the public domain freely for the citizens to purchase and therefore could not be provided freely to anyone including the appellant. The respondent also cited some orders passed by the CIC wherein it was held that the priced publications could not be claimed under RTI and would have to be purchased.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the desired information is available in the public domain against the printed cost of the publications and can be bought by anyone from booksellers and other sales agencies including many departmental emporia. Any citizen can purchase these publications or can even get those from the Publications Division directly by post. The CIC held that as per the Rule 4(e) of the RTI Rules 2012, a citizen will have to pay the price fixed for the publication if he wants the whole of it. If he wants only some extracts from any such publication, he has to pay two rupees per page. The CIC further ruled that this rule differentiates between the publication as a whole and some extracts from it and does not imply that priced publications can be obtained under RTI by paying the photocopying charges or freely in case of BPL citizens. The Commission rejected the appeal.
Citation: Mr. E Qutubuddin Siddique v. Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000804
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/952
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission