Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Postal dept to help Indians travelling abroad and NRIs with RTI filing

Dear Comrades,

After four years of struggle, Indians travelling abroad and NRIs would be able to file Right to Information (RTI) applications online through a dedicated portal managed by the Department of Posts.

Indians living abroad had been finding it difficult to use the RTI Act effectively as the government had not specified rules to pay the mandatory fee of 10 in foreign currency through the Indian embassies and high commissions. Applicants were largely depending on their friends back in India to pay the RTI fee.

However, now the government has decided to provide an Internet-based solution through the Department of Posts to Indians living abroad for submission of RTI applications.

The procedure, which has obtained the Reserve Bank of India nod, is user-friendly and uses already-functional e-commerce portal of Department of Posts, which has its own payment gateway.

To make an application, the applicant would have to login to the website and go to 'RTI counter' on the portal. Registration would be mandatory for the first-time applicant. After filling up the RTI application, and uploading of passport copy, the applicant would be directed for payment of RTI fees through electronic postal order.

The postal order would be generated from a special series and would be captured by the application. It would then be assigned to the public information officer (PIO) of the department chosen by the applicant.

The struggle to streamline the RTI fee payment had started in 2008 when RTI activist and ex-serviceman Commodore Lokesh Batra was visiting his daughter in Boston. Batra had to file an RTI application and realized that there was no easy way of paying the fee of 10 for filing of application.

"I had an appeal hearing in the Central Information Commission the very next month. While the then Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah agreed to hear me through audio conferencing, I found that filing an application back home was difficult," Commodore Batra told ET. Thus began his four-year fight to make it easy for Indians living abroad to use the transparency law.

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