Is the cost of engaging a clerk for compiling information liable to be charged from applicant?
The appellant had filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Department of Posts seeking some information. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed the appellant to submit Rs. 19,000/- as further fee to get the desired information. Later the appellant filed second application under the RTI Act seeking information relating to the computation of fee of Rs.19000/- demanded from him for supply of information requested in earlier RTI application. The PIO provided some information.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the PIO clarified that the cost demanded was for engaging the services of one full time clerk for a month for compiling the huge information requested by the appellant. The appellant was not present for making his submissions during the hearing.
View of CIC
The Commission held that the fee as prescribed under section 7(1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: and 7(5) Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), pay such fee as may be prescribed: Provided that the fee prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate Government. of the RTI Act can only be charged and there is no provision for levy of any further fee under the RTI Act. The CIC ruled that the concerned PIO wrongly demanded the fee of Rs. 19,000/- towards the cost of engaging the services of a clerk for compiling the information requested by the appellant. The Commission warned the PIO to exercise due care to ensure that only the fee as prescribed in the RTI Rules is demanded and calculations made to arrive at the amount of further fee are intimated to the information seeker as provided under section 7(3) of the RTI Act.
Citation: Mr. Narendra Tulsidas Bhatia v. Department of Posts in File No. CIC/LS/A/2012/000356/BS/1666