To make it easy for Non Resident Indians (NRI) to file Right To Information applications, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has asked government departments to provide a link on their websites for receiving online applications and appeals.
The ministry has written to Department of Personnel and Training, nodal department for RTI affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to make guidelines in this regard and make necessary changes in the Act. Its website has a link facilitating reception of online applications.
According to the proposal mooted by the ministry, an NRI will now be able to deposit Rs 10 as RTI fee in the equivalent local currency at the Indian Mission abroad and send their application through email to the concerned public information officer informing about deposit of fee.
“NRIs are entitled to seek information from Ministries/Departments of Government of India/States under the RTI Act. In the absence of appropriate arrangement of deposit of requisite fee, they are finding it difficult to seek information,” G Gurucharan, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs wrote to DoPT.
It was a difficult task for the NRIs to file RTI applications seeking information as there is no mechanism for online applications. The deposit of fee was also a difficult matter as there is no provision in the Act for submitting it in the currency of any other country.
Now, NRIs submit their RTI applications at Indian missions abroad which forward it to officials concerned but fee was accepted only in Indian currency. The fee can be paid either in cash or in valid instruments like postal order, demand draft etc.
It was difficult for NRIs to arrange such instrument abroad leaving them no option but to physically go to the Indian mission and submit fee in cash along with application.
An RTI applicant Commodore Lokesh Batra made a complaint before the Central Information Commission highlighting the plight of NRIs.
Batra had also raised the issue during the annual convention convened by the Commission in October last year which elicited positive reaction from activists and commissioners.
After getting complaint from Batra, the Commission had sought views of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs.
The Ministry of Overseas Affairs in its submission said, “payment of fee for seeking information has to be decided by the Ministry of External Affairs…As regards first and second appeal from abroad, matter has been taken up with the Department of Personnel and Training.”