VINITA DESHMUKH | 22/01/2015 03:25 PM |   

postal stamps, RTI applications, DoPT, suggestions from citizens, CIC, verdicts.

The DoPT has invited suggestions from citizens before 7th February to develop a full proof system for using postal stamps as fees for RTI applications. This follows several suggestions and verdicts from the CIC
As users of Right to Information (RTI) Act would know, different states have different norms for paying the mandated fees. For example, the Rs10 court fee stamp that is accepted by Maharashtra is not accepted elsewhere. In some States, you are compelled to use the Indian Postal Order (IPO) or Demand Draft (DD) mode for paying the RTI application fees. As activists have analysed, each IPO costs the government over Rs35 and a DD for Rs10 also cost about the same.
Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had approached the CIC in 2013 to make it easier for people to file RTI for any kind of application be it the first application or first or second appeal. The Central Information Commission (CIC) in its recommendations to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) stated that fees should be accepted in the form of IPO, DD, cheque and cash against receipt. In addition, for online applications, the RTI applicant could use debit or credit card for payment. The CIC had also recommended that the Department of Posts should issue special RTI stamps on the line of postal stamps.
The Department of Posts expressed its inability to print exclusive RTI stamps. Subsequently, this department recommended “use of definitive series of postal stamps which are ubiquitously available in the post offices across the country in different denominations.” However, this meant amendment in RTI rules. This meant that they can be considered only when RTI rules are amended and that could be for any period of time.
The CIC in its decision of 12 December 2014 again recommended to DoPT “to adopt the proposal of the Department of Posts of use of ordinary postal stamps for payment of the RTI fee”. However, once again the DoPT has pointed out that “use of ordinary postal stamps for the purpose of RTI may lead to accounting problem, as it would not be possible to account the amount collected for RTI through ordinary stamps. Section 25 (3) of the RTI Act lays down that each public authority is required to communicate to CIC/SIC as the case may be, the amount of charges collected under this Act for incorporation in their Annual Report; there is an apprehension of misuse of ordinary stamps for the purpose of RTI in the absence of specific procedures and; whether postal stamps may be considered for initial RTI fees only or for payment of additional fees also.’’
RTI activist Subhashchandra Agrawal counters excuses of DoPT:
  1. Amending RTI-rules 2012 for incorporating use of postal-stamps as RTI-fees including additional fees should not be difficult because it does not require any legislative process.
  2. Misuse of any apprehension of postal-stamps used for RTI-fees including additional fees is baseless because it will be responsibility of respective public-authorities to cancel postal-stamps used as RTI-fees including additional fees through their rubber-seals.
  3. Postal-stamps are to be used for all types of RTI-fees including additional fees.
  4. Use of postal-stamps towards RTI-fees including additional fees will save huge amount of funds because of very high handling cost of postal-orders. Even a postal-order worth rupees ten cost rupees 37.45 as per statistics available for fiscal year 2011-12 which must have been increased much more by now. Therefore all revenue coming from postal-stamps being used as RTI-fees including additional fees even if going to earning of postal-department will ultimately be credited in public-exchequer. Public-authorities can communicate CIC/SCI about RTI-fees including additional fees collected by them as required under section 25(3)(e) of RTI Act through compiling of information on amount received as RTI-fees including additional fees from postal-stamps cancelled by them.
The committee, which has been formed to clear all hurdles for use of postage stamps as RTI fees has now decided to invite suggestions and views from citizens. The committee has appealed: “the views and suggestions preferably not exceeding one page may be sent by 7th February 2015 through email only to RK Girdhar, Under Secretary (RTI), North Block at [email protected].’
So, do hurry up if you have any suggestions to make use of postage stamps as RTI fees without problems.
The CIC had made the following recommendations on several other counts that would help the RTI user to file his or her application, easily:
• All public authorities shall accept demand draft or banker cheque or IPOs payable to their Account Officers and no instrument shall be returned
• All public authorities shall accept IPOs of the denomination of higher values vis a vis the fee/copying charges and the excess amount or fees may not be returned


• CPIOs and APIOs under their command to accept application fee and copying charges in cash from the information seeker


• DoP&T shall direct CPIOs/APIOs/Accounts Officers to accept money orders towards the deposition of fee/copying charges


• The Department of Posts has issued a detailed circulars……dated 12.10.2007 which prescribes display `RTI APPLICATIONS ARE ACCEPTED HERE’ and in addition to display names/addresses of the CPIO and appropriate authorities


• The commission advises the secretary, Department of Posts to consider designating all 25,464 Departmental post offices to accept RTI applications and the requisite fee instead of 4700 post offices


• To issue RTI stamps of the denomination of Rs10 by Department of Posts. It would be a time and cost effective step. The commission would urge Department of Posts/DOP&T to consider the viability of the suggestion with utmost dispatch


• The commission also directed CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities to mention names, designation and fax number of the RTI related correspondence