New Delhi, August 26: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and state governments on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to establish a Right to Information (RTI) web portal to enable people to file online applications for information from any department.
The plea was filed by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell, which seeks to empower migrant people including Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) on the legal front, through lawyer Jose Abraham. The bench which issued the order was headed by Justice NV Ramana and also comprised Justice Ajay Rastogi.
The NGO sought a direction to all state governments to provide the online RTI portal facility to obtain information through the electronic mode.
Advocate Abraham said, “the true objective of the legislation can be achieved only by the timely response to citizens’ request for government information when the process was made online.”
He further described the RTI Act as a powerful tool.
The PIL read, “One of the most effective provision in the RTI Act is 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’ is not effective under the existing system and it severely affects the life and liberty of citizens.”
The petitioner told the court that the Central government has established an online RTI portal for any Indian citizen including NRIs to seek information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department. The applicant can also pay the fee online and submit the RTI application.
The Centre then directed the state governments in December 2013 to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTIs in their respective states. The Centre also asked 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.
The petitioner stated that currently only Maharashtra and Delhi had set up online portals.
The lawyer representing the NGO said that a person seeking information now has to make a physical application. Also, the applicant will have to obtain a postal order by visiting the post office and paying the fee for such an application. Then the application is sent to the concerned department.
The petitioner said, “It is also difficult for Non-Resident Indians (NRI) desirous of obtaining information from any department of the state governments at present since they have to undergo physical application process.” (Agencies)