Monday, 5 March 2012

Indians abroad can now file online RTI application

The first step to seek online information from the government under the Right To Information Act has been taken.

Banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, has allowed sale of electronic postal orders to Indian citizens living abroad through their credit and debit cards. "The 

facility will be used only for payment of fees under the RTI Act," says an order issued by RBI.

The facility available only for Indians living abroad would soon be extended to domestic citizens. "It is only matter of time before the government extends the facility to citizens living in India," said a senior government department.  

The RTI activists have been demanding online filing of application to reduce cost of seeking information from the government. A study by National Campaign for People's Right To Information had found that a person spends about Rs 220 for filing an RTI application with a government department.

"By providing online facility this cost will reduce dramatically," said Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra, who had filed several RTI applications on the problems faced by Indians living abroad in using the transparency law since 2008. 

Till now, the Indians living abroad were allowed to file RTI applications with the Indian embassies and high commissions only. Many embassies and high commissioners had expressed their inability to accept a large number of RTI applications citing resource crunch.

Payment of the RTI fees of Rs 10 per application was the biggest hurdle in filing RTI applications as postal orders are not available outside India and fees in foreign currency was not accepted by many Indian missions.

With the new facility, the hurdle has been removed and the non-resident Indians will be able to submit RTI applications through an email with the respective Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs).

To make the system work, the CPIOs will be required to reply through email. Public information officers of RBI, Prime Minister's Office and the Planning Commission provide replied through email. "Others (CPIOs) will to follow suit," a government official said.

The department of posts has an international money transfer facility and would soon be providing electronic postal orders to facilitate online filing of applications from abroad. The way to make the facility seamless has been discussed by postal department minister Kapil Sibal and minister for personnel V Narayanasamy, mandated to implement the RTI Act.