Mumbai: As a testament to the fact that seeking information under the Right to Information Act has grown more difficult, the Mehsana civil court has demanded an applicant’s proof of citizenship to disburse information that he sought from the court under provisions of the Act.
According to Times of India, on February 24, a resident of Savgadh village in Sabarkantha district, Mohyuddin Fakir had sought documents from the Mehsana court regarding various notifications pertaining to revenue in Kadi block of Mehsana district.
Instead of providing him with information, the court’s public information officer, K.H. Dohre, replied that Fakir would require to furnish evidence of his Indian citizenship to get his RTI request processed further.
No such information is required to be furnished under the Act.
In fact, Rule 6 (2) of the Act states that an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
Unlike the general RTI rules, applications made to the judicial offices have special rules and a different range of fees. Like in the case of the Gujarat high court RTI rules, instead of the usual Rs 20 stamp worth, applicant is mandated to paste a Rs 50-stamp. Faqir, however, had only pasted a Rs 20 stamp and the PIO had written back asking for an additional stamp worth Rs 30 to have the application processed.
Along with the requisite fee, the PIO told the applicant that Rule 7 of a Gujarat government notification published in March 22, 2010 gazette requires “declaration on part of the applicant that he is an Indian citizen, which you have not declared in your application. Therefore, supply the proof of your being an Indian citizen along with the requisite fee. On completion of your application, your application will be processed further”.
Both RTI Act’s rules and the Gujarat high court’s rule for applicants don’t seek information about the applicant’s citizenship.
This is not the first time an individual’s citizenship proof was demanded to provide information under the Act. According to a report in Hindustan Times, the Lucknow University (LU) too has asked an RTI activist to submit proof of citizenship to get information under RTI Act.
The Central Information Commission has already, in its 2014 order, said that the PIO will have to give reasons for doubting the applicant’s citizenship in case of denial of information. However, at the district level, the practice of asking for applicant’s citizenship proof continues.