Changes to RTI in Bihar anger opposition, activists

November 19th, 2009 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Nov 19 (IANS) Opposition parties and activists have slammed restrictions imposed on the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the Bihar government, saying the move is aimed at shielding corruption.
The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Congress and Left parties are up in arms against the changes.

“Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is hell bent on discouraging people from seeking information but we will expose him,” RJD leader Ram Kirpal Yadav said.

Congress state president Anil Kumar Sharma said the changes were anti-constitutional. “We will take this issue to the people,” he said.

Convenor of the Bihar Suchna Adhikar Manch Parveen Amanullah said the changes were in violation of the fundamental rights of people who were free to seek information from the government.

“The move is anti-people, it will serve the interests of government officials only,” said Rupesh, an RTI activist.

The Bihar government made changes to the RTI Act Tuesday under which a person cannot seek more than one information in one application. Now a petitioner will have to pay Rs.10 per query whereas earlier several queries could be put through in one petition by paying Rs.10.

Besides, the government has now decided to charge a Below Poverty Line category information seeker if information runs into more than 10 pages. But it will still be free if the number of pages is up to 10.

Deepak Kumar, principal secretary, personnel and administrative reforms department, said the state government has approved the Bihar Right to Information Act (Amendment) Rules, 2009 seeking minor alterations in the RTI Act 2005.

“The changes were made to make RTI more effective and prevent its misuse. They were as per central government guidelines,” he said.

Last week the state government launched a helpline for those seeking information under the RTI Act and said stern action would be taken against officials found guilty of harassing petitioners.

Official sources said that 42,000 of the 50,000 applications received under the RTI Act during 2007-08 have been disposed of.

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