[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court on Monday asked the central government and all the state governments to file within two weeks their replies on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking setting up of Right to Information (RTI) portals that enable citizens to file applications and receive information online from any department across the country.
Justice NV Ramana who was on the bench along-with Justices SanjivKhanna and Krishna Murari took strong exception to the non-filing of the reply, and asked all the respondents to file their reply within two weeks. The Court has also made it clear that no further adjournment shall be granted in the matter.
The top court on August 26, 2019 had issued a notice to the central government and all the state governments in the matter. However, no reply has been filed by any of the respondents till date. PIL is now fixed for hearing after four weeks.
“The petitioner, if any, can file rejoinder, within two weeks after filing of the reply by the Centre, state governments and UTs”, the court said.
The petition has been filed by an NGO named Pravasi Legal Cell and is being represented by senior Advocate Sanjay Hedge.
Except the Centre and Maharashtra government, no other states entertained the RTI applications online, the petitioner contended.
The petition that seeks legal empowerment of Non Resident Indians maintained that the true objective of the Right to Information Act, 2005 would be fully achieved only after online RTI facilities are established across the country. It deplored that under the current system of submitting RTI applications and receiving the replies from the information officer concerned in physical form reduced the efficiency of the entire RTI mechanism. “It becomes next to impossible for Non Resident Indians (NRIs) to obtain information under the conventional method of snail mail services which is otherwise a costly affair.”
Petitioner pointed that the central government had established an online RTI portal whereby any Indian citizen including NRIs can apply for information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department under central government. It added that the central government also requested the state governments vide letter dated December 3, 2013 to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTI in their respective states.
“Central government also requested the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to provide technical support, such as software, and source code to the state governments, which desire to replicate the web portal for online filing of RTI applications at the state level,” it noted. “However, only the states of Maharashtra and Delhi have established their respective online portals for obtaining information from the departments of their respective governments.”
Asserting that one of the most effective provision in the RTI Act, section 7 (1) which states that “information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request”, it regretted, is not operational under the existing system.
This provision can be made more useful with the creation of online RTI portals at the state level, the petition asserted.