Information Commission orders govt to return excessive fee collected for RTI response

Representational image: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The State Information Commission has stepped in after the government charged an exorbitant amount as fees for providing revenue documents, sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

While one page of the copy should be charged Rs 3, the department took almost up to 100-fold. The Information Commission intervened after receiving a complaint that an applicant was charged Rs 4,020 for the requested document, much higher than the fixed fee of Rs 44.

In his order, State Information Commissioner A Abdul Hakkim pointed out that the government's instruction to charge a higher fee contravened the RTI Act. The Act, he said, envisaged to provide information to the public at a lower expense.

The Commission rejected the Punalur Tahsildar's argument that the Revenue Department had instructed to charge a higher fee. The Tahsildar had allegedly charged Rs 4,020 for providing copies of the Field Measurement Book, Settlement Register, and Basic Tax Register.

Further, the Commission ordered the government to return before December 15 the excessive Rs 3,976 taken from the complainant, S Babu of Anchal in the Kollam district. The Commissioner also asked the government to file an action-taken report by December 20. 

Incidentally, the Commission had summoned a retired woman employee of the Revenue Department to explain the overcharging.

The explanation
The former employee told the Commission that she went by the Revenue Department's instruction.

The department, she explained, instructed to charge a fee equal to the one fixed for original documents, while providing copies sought under the RTI Act.

The Commission pointed out that the copies are issued to provide information to the public. It also noted that the copies provided carried the seal, "Provided under the Right to Information Act." The seal is to prevent the misuse of the documents.

The Information Commission's order also referred to a High Court judgment that found fault with the Kannur University demanding excessive fees for providing information. The court had ordered that only the fee fixed under the RTI Act could be collected.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.