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karira

The RTI battle of the NRIs

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karira

As reported in thehindu.com on 03 April 2009:

The Hindu News Update Service

 

NRIs face difficulty in availing of RTI facility

 

New Delhi (PTI): Non-resident Indians are finding it diffcult to take advantage of the Right to Information Act with complaints of a cumbersome process of fee-payment for information seekers living outside India.

 

An RTI applicant Lokesh Batra raised the issue with Indian mission in Washington citing problems faced by NRIs in filing RTI applications.

 

"There is no definite procedure to deposit the fee of Rs 10 from there (USA) to the public authority anywhere in India which is a big difficulty for accessing the information," Commodore Batra said.

 

According to the Indian Embassy website, people can submit applications along with documentary proof of Indian citizenship (like copy of personal particulars pages of passport) and send prescribed fee in dollars, equivalent to Indian Rs 10 in cheque or demand draft.

 

However, "they need to send the fee directly to public authority here in India for which the process is quiet vague," Commodore Batra said.

 

"From abroad, payment in India in Rupees for RTI Fee is a cumbersome process, especially when different modes of payment and amount being prescribed and accepted by Center, State Governments and other Public Authorities like Courts "For instance in Uttar Pradesh, one has to apply and paste treasury stamp for getting copy of State Information Commission's order. How can a person will travel all the way from America to paste stamp and get the information?", he asked.

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karira

As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal in indianexpress.com on 19 October 2009:

The RTI battle of the NRIs

 

The RTI battle of the NRIs

 

 

The NRIs in the US have been leading a campaign for their right to use the Right to Information Act from abroad even as the government admits their “issue” is complex” and may need an amendment in the law. Take the case of 73 young NRIs across the US who, on November 15, 2007, jointly wrote to the Indian Embassy at Washington DC for information through RTI on the Nandigram violence. They wanted to know the death toll and access the correspondence between the state government and the Ministries of Home and External Affairs. Five days later, the Embassy sent a non-committal reply: “The information is not available with us”.

 

“We tried to explain about the spirit of the Act and our difficult situation of not being able to file an RTI without the Embassy’s assistance, but to no avail,” recounts Somasundaram Kumaresamuthusamy, one of the applicants.

 

Or the case of Arun Gopalan, based in Montgomery Village in Maryland, who was asked to re-direct his RTI application on the annual water accounts of Narmada Basin to the “Public Information Officer concerned”.

 

“I filed an RTI application with the Home Department, Government of Maharashtra. The application required a court fee of Rs 10, which I could not procure here in the US. My friend did not put the stamp on the appeal and as a result my appeal was not processed. Thus the lack of mechanism to pay fee from the US is a major hindrance to my ability to seek information,” Los Angeles resident Vishal Kudchadkar informs Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi in a letter dated June 22. NRIs, with meagre help from overseas public authorities, remain largely clueless on basic information required for filing an RTI application — from paying the Rs 10 fee to keeping abreast of the different payment modes varying from state to state.

 

An RTI application filed with the Indian Embassy in the US by Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra shows the downslide with only 44 applications filed in 2007, 27 in 2008 and none till January 2009. The number of appeals filed with the Embassy is five in 2007, four in 2008 and none till January 2009.

 

An October 6, 2009, response by Debraj Pradhan, Central Public Information Officer and Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs to Kudchadkar says, “The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs informed that they did not have any information, the Department of Personnel and Training responded stating that ‘no policy, rules, regulations and procedures exist under the RTI Act, 2005, to facilitate NRIs to file RTI applications to public authorities in India from abroad’.”

 

Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah says NRIs can better participate in RTI if an amendment is made in the rules to name the “Ministry of Overseas Affairs as the nodal authority to monitor RTI applications from NRIs”. The applicants currently can file the application fee in the currency of the nations in which they reside. The applications can be submitted with the respective embassies, but a proper mechanism through the amendments has to be worked out for processing the requests. I found the MEA not the right authority to entertain applications,” Habibullah says. But Vishal disagrees with Habibullah, and feels a “simple gazette notification” would do. “Under Section 26 (3)©(h)(i) of the Act, the government is empowered to update guidelines on the manner in which requests for access to information shall be made to a Public Information Officer, the notices for fees to be paid and for any additional regulations or circulars. Hence the concerns of the NRIs can be addressed by a simple gazette notification,” his e-mail to Pradhan on October 7 says. The DoPT now also says that the RTI Act would need an amendment for NRIs.

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Ketan Modi

Wel friends, in India the Postal Department is empowered to accept the applications and transfer the same to the concerned authorities to which it has been addressed. The same rule can be applied with regards to MEA and its sub-ordinate. With regards to the fee, MEA can direct their respective subordinate offices to accept the fee equivalent to the applicable fee in their respective currencies. Why are we looking for amendments? Even the CIC is aware that applications u/s 6(1), appeals u/s 19(1) and 19(3) are being transferred by the postal department to the authorities they are addressed to. It seems that they are shriking from their obligations. Happy inforamtion seeking.

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karira
Wel friends, in India the Postal Department is empowered to accept the applications and transfer the same to the concerned authorities to which it has been addressed. The same rule can be applied with regards to MEA and its sub-ordinate. With regards to the fee, MEA can direct their respective subordinate offices to accept the fee equivalent to the applicable fee in their respective currencies. Why are we looking for amendments? Even the CIC is aware that applications u/s 6(1), appeals u/s 19(1) and 19(3) are being transferred by the postal department to the authorities they are addressed to. It seems that they are shriking from their obligations. Happy inforamtion seeking.

 

The problem is not only the fees part, but also the refusal of the Commissions, Embassies and Consulates to transfer the application under 6(3) to the concerned PIO in India.

 

Same as the question handled by the full bench in your matter - the only thing is that in this case the applicant definitely knows that the Indian mission is not the "concerned" PA.

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karira

As reported in ndtv.com on 14 February 2010:

Now, online Right To Information applications for NRIs

 

Now, online Right To Information applications for NRIs

 

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."

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karira

As reported by Himanshi Dhawan in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 17 April 2010:

Indians abroad seek access to RTI Act, launch signature campaign - Indians Abroad - World - The Times of India

 

Indians abroad seek access to RTI Act, launch signature campaign

 

NEW DELHI: Indian citizens living abroad have kicked off a signature campaign demanding that they be able to access information through the Right to Information Act. The campaign has already attracted about 145 signatures in just four days from people of Indian citizenship residing in the US, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and Dubai among other countries.

 

The appeal -- addressed to PM Manmohan Singh -- urges that Indians living abroad be allowed to have a voice in governance. This has been a long-standing demand of Indian citizens but in the absence of procedure or rules, there has been no effective implementation of the legislation.

 

While Indian missions are authorised to accept RTI pleas, there is a lacuna on the payment of fees. Comm Lokesh Batra (retd) -- who has been campaigning for the issue -- said, "There is no clear method of payment. We would like the government to appoint a nodal officer who can facilitate the process and deposit the RTI fees with the public authority." The appeal suggests that missions could accept RTI fees from applicants also.

 

The demand is that the legislation should not apply only to NRIs but also to citizens residing abroad for a short time or travelling for education or job purposes, and even officials posted in Indian missions or on deputation to international bodies.

 

Among the signatories of the campaign is Richa Mathur from Sydney, who said, "We seek our right to participate in governance."

 

Major Satish Khanna from Switzerland said, "It should be a simple process to resolve this minor issue. Payments should be accepted by Indian embassies overseas in local currencies."

 

Bala Janakiraman from US added, "I was taught in school that all Indians are equal. With the way the RTI Act has been implemented, I am learning you are less equal if you are part of the great Indian diaspora living outside. This has to be fixed. Now."

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karira

As reported by Shashank Shekhar in mid-day.com on 16 April 2010:

NRIs pursue Right to Information

 

NRIs pursue Right to Information

 

Indians abroad keen to avail the information tool, but operational deficiencies remain

 

Tarun Prakash Singh, a software engineer in New Jersey has been running from pillar to post for the past two years, to arrange a passport for his mother who lives in Ghaziabad. Tired with all his travails, Singh tried to file an RTI plea with the regional passport office. But he was shocked on receiving information that to avail the Right to Information, he had to be on Indian shores.

 

"My mother who had applied for her passport two years back from Ghaziabad is still waiting to come to New Jersey and meet me as her passport application is still being processed. So after seeing this situation I tried to file an RTI to know how many applications do they get, how many passports they produce and what is the average time, but I could not get the information as there was no such provision," said Tarun.

 

Tarun is not alone. There are many Indians abroad who are keen to avail the Right to Information. So, some of them have initiated a signature campaign addressing a letter to the prime minister. An application is likely to be presented to the Indian embassy in Washington. The animation is palpable. More than 100 NRIs signed the campaign in less than 48 hours.

 

The movement was initiated by RTI activist Commodore (Retd) Lokesh K Batra who himself could not file a plea while vacationing at his daughter's place in the United States. Batra wanted to unearth various facts from government departments regarding the Nithari killings in Noida. Due to unavailability of the service he could not file the RTI. So he made his way back to India and filed the RTIs, which helped in bringing the apathy of several government agencies to light.

 

"I was unable to exercise my right in the absence of procedure/rules for payment of RTI fees in foreign currency from abroad. However I was able to participate in the hearing of my RTI appeal conducted by the Hon'ble Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) from his office in New Delhi, through an audio conference. After having faced this difficulty, I realised the gravity of this problem for Indian citizens while they are away from India," said Batra who is a resident of Noida.

 

NRIs are suggesting an arrangement from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), for missions to accept RTI fees in foreign currency from applicants and for central public authorities to use the same procedure as they do for RTI applications concerning their own ministry.

 

In this case, a mission's role would be to accept the fee along with a copy of passport to verify citizenship (as they do now) and to issue a receipt/E-receipt to the applicant for the fee.

 

Case in point

 

In 2005, Tushar Dalvi used RTI and managed to get his refund, which was pending for five years, in a week's time. Dalvi, an NRI, settled in Santa Cruz, has a non-resident ordinary account (NRO) from which the bank was deducting tax at source (TDS) on the interest accumulated on his deposits. Although he had filed returns and applied for a refund with the central international taxation department from 2002 onwards, he had not got a single reply from the IT department. Dalvi decided to file an RTI query with the IT dept's central public information officer about the status on his pending refund. And within a few days he got the interest and the assessment orders from the department which they had missed initially, and the original refund cheques.

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karira

An article by Vinita Deshmukh in moneylife.in on 22 June 2011:

http://moneylife.in/article/indians-living-abroad-keen-to-use-rti-but-the-government-isnt-making-it-easier/17488.html

 

Indians living abroad keen to use RTI, but the government isn’t making it easier

 

A couple of activists have spearheaded a campaign to make it more convenient for Indians living abroad to use the RTI Act. One of the issues is providing an online facility to make relevant payments on RTI applications. But their efforts have met with indifference by the government

 

Thousands of Indians reside in other countries where they are employed, engaged in business, or for studies. Many more travel to other countries for shorter periods as visitors. Despite the distance, they stay connected not only with their families back home, but with the issues in India. Many of them have a desire to actively participate in India's governance.

 

Ever since the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005, their hopes to access information and keep a tab on governance had brightened. But six years down the line, they are still pleading with the Indian government to make the payment of fees applicable under the RTI Act, payable online, from the country where they reside and in the relevant currency. For this, they are seeking the purchase of postal order online, which is the most popular mode of payment under the RTI Act, towards payment of fees. This would facilitate sending their RTI application directly to the Public Information Officer (PIO) of any government department in India.

 

There is a flicker of hope. According to a document procured by Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra, the Department of Posts has written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 4 February 2011, stating that, "The Department of Posts has developed a portal called 'e-portal' office. We have received a reference from the secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, requesting to include a provision for the purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens living abroad, to enable them to seek information under the RTI Act, 2005. The challenge faced by the Indian citizens is in remitting the prescribed fee for seeking information as per the specified mode of the Act. The post office can provide a solution to this challenge, since the Indian postal order is one of the most prescribed mode of payment under the RTI Act. To put a system in place to facilitate this, we would require clearance to accept credit card/debit card for online payment from abroad through e-portal.''

 

Further, RTI documents reveal that the Department of Posts has also written to the RBI on 15 March 2011 stating that Axis Bank has been accepted as the "payment gateway provider'' for such online payments.

 

However, the RBI in its reply on 15 June 2011 to Cmde Batra's RTI query on the status of letters from the Department of Posts, has said, quite ridiculously, "The RBI has not taken a final decision on the request of the Department of Posts. As such this information cannot be given as per Section 8 of the RTI Act.''

 

Cmde Batra, who resides in Noida, has filed 50 RTI applications since 2008, seeking information on action taken by different government departments, whether it is the Ministry of Finance, the Department of Personnel and Training (which implements the RTI Act), the Department of Posts (which can make e- payment possible), the National Advisory Council (NAC) and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

 

Indians living in the United States have taken up the RTI campaign since 2007. Vishal Kudchadkar, member of the Association for India's Development (AID), which has undertaken a crusade against corruption and is working on various developmental issues, says, "Even after six years, Indian citizens living abroad are unable to access information, as per their right, in the absence of procedures/rules to be framed by the government for payment of RTI fees in foreign currency from abroad. Each time I have to depend on my friends in India to pay fees for my RTI applications and appeals.''

 

Mr Kudchadkar, who is based in Los Angeles, has invoked the RTI Act on several issues. One of these was to the Maharashtra home ministry seeking information on the establishment of Police Personnel Board, Police Grievance Authority and State Security Board, post 9/11 Mumbai terror attack. He has also filed RTI applications on the Bhopal gas tragedy, the civil strife in Nandigram and similar SEZ issues.

 

Cmde Batra, who is steering the campaign for Indians abroad, plunged into the matter during a visit to the US in 2008. The date for his appeal before the Information Commission in Delhi was fixed while he was abroad, and then chief information commissioner, Dr Wajahat Habibullah, allowed the hearing through audio-conferencing. However, when he began to ask about regular RTI applications filed from the US, he found that Indians there faced many hurdles.

 

The Indian embassy in Washington put its hands up, saying that it could only accept RTI applications pertaining to queries related to its office, or at the most those related to the Ministry of External Affairs. The Indians tried to impress upon the embassy that under Section 6(3) it is the duty of the PIO to forward applications not relevant to him, to the concerned departments. But the embassy refused to take responsibility.

 

Cmde Batra says, "The denial of the use of the RTI Act applies to all Indian citizens living abroad, including those who may be abroad for short visits, for education and for jobs or business, even officials posted in Indian missions or on deputation to international bodies, and so on.''

 

So, he addressed RTI queries to various ministries concerned with this issue, like the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) the PMO and the NAC, as to what action had been taken to facilitate Indians abroad to use the RTI Act and to make it easy for them to pay the fees online, but there was no reply. Com Batra also sought to know the status of the petition sent by Indians living abroad and wrote to prime minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in the issue.

 

Cmde Batra then filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) in April 2009 against the ministries for not providing him the required information. Information commissioner Annapurna Dixit gave an order on 16 April 2010 asking the Department of Personnel and Training to "formulate" a system to "facilitate accessibility of the Act by Indians abroad".

 

Simultaneously, Indians abroad launched an online global campaign in April 2010 addressing an "Appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh" to "intervene to speedily resolve the problem". The petition carried signatures of 316 Indians residing in Australia, Burundi, Canada, Dubai, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, UAE, the UK and the US.

 

On 17 May 2010, a delegation of US-based Indian activists submitted the petition to the prime minister through the nominated representative of Meera Shankar, then Indian ambassador in Washington, requesting him to forward the submission to the prime minister.

 

The petition said: "Our suggestion is that just as the government has facilitated APIOs by the postal department in India for all public authorities, along similar lines, the government should facilitate an APIO in each Indian Mission/Post in local embassies and charge fees equivalent to rupees.

 

"Alternatively, we suggest that arrangements may be made by the MEA, the administrative ministry for Indians abroad, for missions to accept RTI fees in foreign currency from applicants filing RTI to central public authorities, using the same procedure as they are hitherto doing for RTI applications concerning their own ministry. The mission's role would be to accept the fee along with a copy of passport to verify citizenship and issue a receipt/E-receipt to the applicant for the fee. Thereafter, either the mission or the RTI applicant can forward the application to the concerned central public authority (PA) online… Any additional costs for providing the information can be remitted to the mission in the same way and the receipt/E-receipt given by the mission can serve as proof of payment.''

 

The Prime Minister's Office has been silent on the issue.

 

Cmde Batra though has not given up. He feels victory is round the corner. "I am going to file an appeal against the reply of the Public Information Officer of the Reserve Bank of India which says that it comes under Section 8 of the RTI Act, meaning information cannot be disclosed. I would also be conducting inspection of files in the Ministry of Finance department," he says.

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dr.s.malhotra

P.S. : this is dated 14-2-2011

 

Online RTI applications for NRIs! New Delhi, Feb 14, (PTI): cane be seen here : http://www.deccanherald.com/content/52581/online-rti-applications-nris.html

To make it easy for NRIs to file RTI 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 (Non-Resident Indians) 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".

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karira

As reported by Chetan Chauhan in hindustantimes.com on 05 Mar 2012:

Indians abroad can now file online RTI application - Hindustan Times

 

Indians abroad can now file online RTI application

 

The first step to seek online information from the government under the Right To Information Act has been taken.

 

Banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, has allowed sale of electronic postal orders to Indian citizens living abroad through their credit and debit cards. "The facility will be used only for payment of fees under the RTI Act," says an order issued by RBI.

 

The facility available only for Indians living abroad would soon be extended to domestic citizens. "It is only matter of time before the government extends the facility to citizens living in India," said a senior government department.

 

The RTI activists have been demanding online filing of application to reduce cost of seeking information from the government. A study by National Campaign for People's Right To Information had found that a person spends about Rs 220 for filing an RTI application with a government department.

 

"By providing online facility this cost will reduce dramatically," said Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra, who had filed several RTI applications on the problems faced by Indians living abroad in using the transparency law since 2008.

 

Till now, the Indians living abroad were allowed to file RTI applications with the Indian embassies and high commissions only. Many embassies and high commissioners had expressed their inability to accept a large number of RTI applications citing resource crunch.

 

Payment of the RTI fees of Rs 10 per application was the biggest hurdle in filing RTI applications as postal orders are not available outside India and fees in foreign currency was not accepted by many Indian missions.

 

With the new facility, the hurdle has been removed and the non-resident Indians will be able to submit RTI applications through an email with the respective Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs).

 

To make the system work, the CPIOs will be required to reply through email. Public information officers of RBI, Prime Minister's Office and the Planning Commission provide replied through email. "Others (CPIOs) will to follow suit," a government official said.

 

The department of posts has an international money transfer facility and would soon be providing electronic postal orders to facilitate online filing of applications from abroad. The way to make the facility seamless has been discussed by postal department minister Kapil Sibal and minister for personnel V Narayanasamy, mandated to implement the RTI Act.

 

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Sajib Nandi

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

 

Reported by Economictimes.indiatimes.com on 6 Mar, 2012

Postal dept to help Indians travelling abroad and NRIs with RTI filing - The Economic Times

 

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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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Vinita Deshmukh in Moneylife.in on March 07, 2012

Near victory for Indians abroad for filing online RTI applications - Moneylife Personal Finance site and magazine

 

After several years of persistent campaign by RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra and several RTI activists abroad, the RBI, early this week, has given a “no objection” to the government for the sale of electronic postal orders through credit/debit cards for paying RTI fees. Now the Department of Posts has to quickly find a technology solution

 

Each time that Vishal Kudchadkar, an RTI (Right to Information) activist from Los Angeles wanted to file a RTI application or file a second appeal to the state chief information commissioner of Maharashtra, he had to seek the help of his family and friends back home in Pune. For hundreds of others residing in various countries abroad, the right to procure information under the RTI Act was denied due to the Indian government’s lethargy in giving a green signal to online payment for the applications.

 

The victory is almost in sight as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on 1st March gave its “no objection” to the government. Now, it is for the Department of Posts to stand by its commitment of implementing the electronic postal orders through Axis Bank—a module which it is already familiar with. However, the DoP would have to would have to work on technology solutions to meet the conditions laid down by the RBI.

 

Delhi-based activist Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra has filed over 150 RTI applications since 2008 to pursue this issue. For this, Commodore Batra sought information on action taken by different government departments, whether it is the ministry of finance, the Department of Personnel and Training (which implements the RTI Act), the Department of Posts (which can make e- payment possible), the National Advisory Council (NAC) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

 

Finally, his relentless efforts bore fruit when on 1st March, the RBI stated in a reply to another of Commodore Batra’s RTI application filed on 15th February this year, asking for the status of the issue of `approval for purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens abroad for RTI fees that it has sent its “no objection letter” to the government.

 

In a letter dated 3 February 2012 to the ministry of communications & IT, Department of Posts, Anita Kumari, manager of the RBI has stated, “the payment gateway provider will be Axis Bank’’ and “online payments from abroad should be made only through debit and credit cards issued by the bank having affiliations with one of the card payment networks authorised under the PSS Act 2007”.

 

Mr Kudchadkar stated enthusiastically that, “we have been working very closely with Lokesh sir on this issue. All kudos to him for doggedly carrying forward a fight, we started, to its conclusion. Without him I don’t think we would have been able to navigate the bureaucratic hoops. This process started almost four years ago and finally we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are excited to finally be able to exercise our right to seek information!”

 

Another RTI activist from the US, Somu Kumar stated, “We are ecstatic that finally Indian government has taken action on a long-standing demand of Indians living abroad, which was to establish a proper and easy mechanism for us to seek information from our government. We have so far been stone-walled by the Indian embassies and consulates from actively seeking information by using various excuses but finally we hope this new announcement will end the difficulty and allow free flow of information.”

 

Not ready to give it up until the ‘actual’ implementation, Commodore Batra predictably has dashed off a letter on 6th March to Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications & Information Technology, seeking his intervention in expediting the issue of electronic Indian postal orders (IPOs) to help Indian citizens abroad to make online payments for RTI application. He says, “It’s not a complete victory unless Department of Posts implements it”.

 

So, what would this mean for the Indians living abroad? They would be required to log on to the Department of Posts website and then register (if it is his or her first time) and click on the “RTI counter”. He/she would have to upload passport copy after filling the RTI application. Then he/she would require to pay the fees through the electronic postal order. Thereafter, the RTI application would be sent to the relevant public information officer of the department that the applicant is seeking information from. The CPIO can verify the IPO number by logging on to the ePO portal.

 

Way back on 4 February 2011, Commodore Batra found out under a RTI reply that the Department of Posts had written to the RBI stating, “The Department of Posts has developed a portal called ‘e-portal’ office. We have received a reference from the secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, requesting to include a provision for the purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens living abroad to enable them to seek information under the RTI Act, 2005. The challenge faced by the Indian citizens is in remitting the prescribed fee for seeking information as per the specified mode of the Act. The post office can provide a solution to this challenge, since the Indian postal order is one of the most prescribed modes of payment under the RTI Act. To put a system in place to facilitate this, we would require clearance to accept credit card/debit card for online payment from abroad through e-portal.'”

 

Further, RTI documents revealed that the Department of Posts had also written to the RBI on 15 March 2011 stating that Axis Bank has been accepted as the “payment gateway provider'” for such online payments.

 

However, the RBI in its reply on 15 June 2011 to Commodore Batra’s RTI query on the status of letters from the Department of Posts said quite ridiculously, “The RBI has not taken a final decision on the request of the Department of Posts. As such this information cannot be given as per Section 8 of the RTI Act.'”

 

Commodore Batra steered the campaign for Indians abroad, when he had a personal experience in 2008 when he was in the US. The date for his appeal before the Information Commission in Delhi was fixed while he was abroad, and then chief information commissioner, Dr Wajahat Habibullah, allowed the hearing through audio-conferencing. However, when he began to ask about regular RTI applications filed from the US, he found that Indians there faced many hurdles.

 

The Indian embassy in Washington put its hands up, saying that it could only accept RTI applications pertaining to queries related to its office, or at the most those related to the ministry of external affairs. Indians tried to impress upon the embassy that under Section 6(3) it is the duty of the PIO to forward applications not relevant to him, to the concerned departments. But the embassy refused to take responsibility. This triggered off his campaign.

 

He was joined by activists abroad. In 2010, a delegation of US-based Indian activists submitted their petition to prime minister Manmohan Singh, carrying 316 signatures from Indians residing in Australia, Burundi, Canada, Dubai, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, UAE, the UK and the US. However, the PMO was silent on this issue (not surprising).

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Ibnlive.in.com on Mar 08, 2012

NRIs can pay RTI fees online - South India - Karnataka - ibnlive

 

BANGALORE: In a move to ease filing of Right To Information (RTI) by Indians living abroad, the Reserve Bank of India approved of an internet-based solution where the Indian Postal Department will accept an initial payment of `10.

 

 

The struggle to streamline the process started two years ago when an applicant� appealed to the Central Information Commission about how there were no easy way to pay `10 for filing an RTI application. The Commission sent a letter to the personnel and training department, which implements the RTI Act. It further sought the views of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs.

 

 

The postal department suggested the ‘ePost’ service can be used to accept the mandatory `10 from abroad. Under the scheme, NRIs can buy electronic forms through the ePost website and the money can be transferred electronically.

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Sajib Nandi

Indians Abroad Can Now File Online Right To Information Plea

 

Reported by Thelinkpaper.ca on March 10th, 2012

Indians Abroad Can Now File Online Right To Information Plea | Link Newspaper

 

NEW DELHI – The first step to seek online information from the government under the Right To Information Act has been taken.

 

Banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, has allowed sale of electronic postal orders to Indian citizens living abroad through their credit and debit cards. “The facility will be used only for payment of fees under the RTI Act,” says an order issued by RBI.

 

The facility available only for Indians living abroad would soon be extended to domestic citizens. “It is only matter of time before the government extends the facility to citizens living in India,” said a senior government department.

 

The RTI activists have been demanding online filing of application to reduce cost of seeking information from the government. A study by National Campaign for People’s Right To Information had found that a person spends about Rs 220 for filing an RTI application with a government department.

 

“By providing online facility this cost will reduce dramatically,” said Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra, who had filed several RTI applications on the problems faced by Indians living abroad in using the transparency law since 2008.

 

Till now, the Indians living abroad were allowed to file RTI applications with the Indian embassies and high commissions only. Many embassies and high commissioners had expressed their inability to accept a large number of RTI applications citing resource crunch.

 

Payment of the RTI fees of Rs 10 per application was the biggest hurdle in filing RTI applications as postal orders are not available outside India and fees in foreign currency was not accepted by many Indian missions.

 

With the new facility, the hurdle has been removed and the non-resident Indians will be able to submit RTI applications through an email with the respective Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs).

 

To make the system work, the CPIOs will be required to reply through email. Public information officers of RBI, Prime Minister’s Office and the Planning Commission provide replied through email. “Others (CPIOs) will to follow suit,” a government official said.

 

The department of posts has an international money transfer facility and would soon be providing electronic postal orders to facilitate online filing of applications from abroad. The way to make the facility seamless has been discussed by postal department minister Kapil Sibal and minister for personnel V Narayanasamy, mandated to implement the RTI Act.

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Economictimes.indiatimes.com on 13 APR, 2012

Online RTI remains far cry for NRIs - The Economic Times

 

NEW DELHI: Indians living abroad would have to wait longer for a convenient process of filing Right to Information (RTI) applications online. The issue seems stuck for the next six months as government departments are going slow on finalising the procedure.

 

Department of posts had offered its e-commerce portal of department of posts at to help Indians living abroad in filing RTI applications. The matter is stuck now as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put a number of technical conditions, including security issues, before the service can be opened up for the consumers.

 

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the nodal department for implementation of the Act, has also not provided the requisite information to start the project.

 

Indians living abroad had been finding it difficult to use RTI Act effectively as the government had not made specific 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. Department of posts had proposed a user-friendly way to generate a postal order of 10 for the customers through its own payment gateway on the portal.

 

The applicant would login to the website and go to "RTI counter" on the portal. Registration would be mandatory for first time applicant. The process would capture basic information about the applicant. The applicant would file RTI application in the format provided on the portal and upload his passport copy.

 

After this, the applicant would buy an electronic postal order for paying the RTI fee. 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 PIO would log into the system and confirm receipt of fee.

 

A senior official said, "There are several issues that RBI has posed. We will have to sort them out." According to sources, Department of Posts would require a database for all the PIOs so that it can give unique ids and passwords to them.

 

However, the department has not got the information from DoPT for the past two months. RBI has asked the department to create a unique software solution. The official said, "This would take at least 3-4 months to sort out."

 

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 realised that there was no easy way of paying the fee of 10.

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karira

As reported by Sidharth Pandey in ndtv.com on 03 May 2012:

New rules make it easier for NRIs to use Right to Information Act

 

New rules make it easier for NRIs to use Right to Information Act

 

 

New Delhi: In a major victory for transparency seekers and ordinary Indians living abroad, the centre has given its in-principle nod to allow the sale of Indian Postal Orders (IPOs) through the internet to citizens living abroad. While the details are still being worked out, the decision follows the RBI giving its nod to allowing Indian citizens to purchase IPOs through the net using their credit cards.

 

If things stay on track then soon Indians abroad would be able to log on to the department of posts website and register themselves. After doing so, they would need to upload a copy of their passports as proof of citizenship and then make the payment for the RTI online. The plan is to also allow them to then directly file their RTI query related with central government departments online. The department will then send the RTI directly to the concerned information officer who would also be able to log on and verify that the payment has been made.

 

RTI applications to government departments and public authorities have to be accompanied with an application fees. For the central government officers and departments, this fees is 10 rupees with each application and can be paid either in cash or in the form of a draft or IPOs. While hundreds of thousands of RTIs have been filed since the RTI Act was passed in 2005, Indians abroad have had a tough time arranging the fees and asking their government for information.

 

Efforts to make it easier for Indians abroad to file RTIs got a further impetus when Delhi-based RTI activist Lokesh Batra had gone to the US for 2 months to visit his daughter several years ago. Mr Batra who typically files several RTIs a month, quickly realized that filing RTIs from the US was not easy. The Indian consulate also told him that it could only accept those applications which were addressed to it or the MEA.

 

Mr Batra then started a petition signed by several hundred Indians across the world asking the government to simplify the process. While the new system will make it easier for Indians abroad to access information from the central government, several states have evolved their own set of rules and fees for giving information.

 

Recently the Chattisgarh Vidhan Sabha hiked its fees to 500 rupees for each RTI query prompting sharp criticism from campaigners and transparency seekers who say that such moves will only make it harder for ordinary citizens to exercise their Right to Information.

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mayureshw

One of the headaches in filing RTI query is A. Getting a postal order B. Worrying about whom to address it etc.

 

e-Postal Order will make it a past as one would just get a number to mention on the RTI application and no physical PO will be required. Also, the money will go to a common Govt fund not requiring worrying about whom to address it.

 

See article: e-Postal order to help Indian diaspora file RTI applications - Moneylife Personal Finance site and magazine

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karira

As reported in economictimes.indiatimes.com on 15 May 2012:

e-IPOs to help diaspora file RTI applications - The Economic Times

 

e-IPOs to help diaspora file RTI applications

 

NEW DELHI: Making it easy for the Indian diasporato seek information under the RTI Act, the Centre has decided to float electronic Indian Postal Order for paying RTI fee, which can be purchased using debit and credit cards.

 

The Indians settled abroad were finding it difficult to seek information under the transparency law as IPO or Demand Draft of Rs 10 was not easily available.

 

The Department of Personnel has now agreed in principle with the Department of Posts to launch e-IPO which can be easily purchased by the applicant living abroad using their credit or debit cards.

 

Under the proposed scheme, once applicant purchases e-IPO using credit or debit card physical postal order will not be generated, only a number would be generated which could be mentioned on the application by the applicant.

 

"Information seeker will write this number on his RTI application and send to public authority. Service of e-IPO along with RTI application will be applicable to Central Public authorities", a Personnel Ministry circular said.

 

The details provided by the applicant will be matched with those on the Department of Posts web site and once transaction details are matched, fee will be accepted.

 

"Money will not be received physically by the PIO but will be transferred to a consolidated fund of India. This will be on the patten of the payment received by the Department of Posts in the scheme of CAPIOs", it said.

 

The Ministry directed all Ministries and departments to appoint nodal officers for handling e-RTI applications.

 

It said the nodal officers will be given training to handling these applications once the modalities are worked out.

 

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karira

Attached is the full set of documents obtained under RTI, by Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been fighting for such a service for NRI's.

 

It shows the detailed background processes in the Government for taking such a decision.

RTI on complete background of e IPO for NRIs.pdf

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akhilesh yadav

2013 wakes up to online payment of RTI applications for Indians abroad

Reported by Vinita Deshmukh in moneylife.com on Jan 3,2013

2013 wakes up to online payment of RTI applications for Indians abroad - Moneylife

 

With the Department of Posts all set to launch its electronic postal order for accepting RTI fee online from Indians living abroad by 15th January, the five-year campaign of RTI activists and NRIs will finally bear fruit

1357199119_department-of-posts.png

The final trigger for the launch of e-IPO (electronic Indian Postal Order) that would facilitate Indian citizens living abroad to pay the Rs10 fee for filing a RTI application came when on 12 December 2012, Sujata Chaudhury, general manager of Business Development & Marketing Directorate of Department of Posts set a deadline of 15 January 2013 and asked the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to treat this “as most urgent” and to complete the work on a “war footing.”

 

Ms Chaudhury’s letter states: “Now it has been decided at the highest level that the facility of accepting RTI fee by generating e-IPO through the e-post office portal is to be launched by 15 January 2013. Therefore, it is requested to take accelerated steps to complete the task much before the targeted time fixed earlier. This may be treated as most urgent and work be done on a war footing.”

 

Delhi-based activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra, who steered the campaign for Indians living abroad in several countries, is ecstatic at this citizen victory and congratulates the Department of Posts for completing the project in record time. He had filed more than 150 RTI applications in various relevant departments since 2008 and consistently pressurized the government to provide online payment facilities for RTI fees.

 

States Commodore Batra: “If all goes well as per the plans of the ‘Department of Posts’ (DOP) for launching of e-IPO for RTI fee, Indian citizens abroad will be able to use their ‘Right to Know’ before this Republic Day.” On 31 December 2012, Commodore Batra went through the complete process of the functioning of e-IPO at the Department of Posts and says that if not 15th January, then by 25th January it is sure to be launched. When the scheme becomes a reality, it will be a huge achievement for Indian citizens abroad who have been pressing the government for the last five years to facilitate them in nation building by exercising their right to know.

 

The final step of this issue has been languishing since March 2012 when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gave its “no objection” to the government to start an online payment facility for RTI fees for NRIs but the Department of Posts was waiting for orders to put a system in order.

 

Now that it has happened, soon the RTI applicant abroad would be able to use a credit or debit card to pay the Rs10 fee. Axis Bank is the payment gateway provider. The RTI applicant living abroad would be required to log on to the Department of Posts’ website and then register (if it is his or her first time) and click on the “RTI counter”. He/she would have to upload a copy of his/her passport after filling the RTI application. Then he/she would be required to pay the fees through the electronic postal order. Thereafter, the RTI application would be sent to the relevant public information officer of the department that the applicant is seeking information from. The CPIO (Chief Public Information Officer) can verify the IPO number by logging on to the ePO portal.

 

Commodore Batra had been continuously filing RTI applications since 2008 to relevant government departments which handle this issue like the ministry of finance, the Department of Personnel and Training (which implements the RTI Act), the Department of Posts (which can make e- payment possible), the National Advisory Council (NAC) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). While initially the DoP had taken initiative to hasten the process, the RBI was sitting over it. Thereafter the DoP was waiting for a green signal from the ministry.

 

Following are some of the landmark communications accessed under RTI by Batra:

 

4 February 2011: Department of Posts had written to the RBI stating, “The Department of Posts has developed a portal called ‘e-portal’ office. We have received a reference from the secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, requesting to include a provision for the purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens living abroad to enable them to seek information under the RTI Act, 2005. The challenge faced by the Indian citizens is in remitting the prescribed fee for seeking information as per the specified mode of the Act. The post office can provide a solution to this challenge, since the Indian postal order is one of the most prescribed modes of payment under the RTI Act. To put a system in place to facilitate this, we would require clearance to accept credit card/debit card for online payment from abroad through e-portal.”

 

15 June 2011: RBI’s reply to Commodore Batra’s RTI query on the status of letters from the Department of Posts stated: “The RBI has not taken a final decision on the request of the Department of Posts. As such this information cannot be given as per Section 8 of the RTI Act.”

 

3 February 2012: RBI (which had earlier denied Commodore Batra information under Section 8 of the RTI Act) it had sent its “no-objection” to the government. In a letter dated 3 February 2012 to the ministry of communications & IT, Department of Posts, Anita Kumari, manager of the RBI had stated, “the payment gateway provider will be Axis Bank” and “online payments from abroad should be made only through debit and credit cards issued by the bank having affiliations with one of the card payment networks authorised under the PSS Act 2007”.

 

12 December 2012: Department of Posts sets a deadline of 15 January 2013 (letter reproduced at the beginning of this article).

 

Some of the milestones in this citizen campaign include:

 

2008: Commodore Batra steered the campaign for Indians abroad, when he had a personal experience in 2008 when he was in the US. The date for his appeal before the Information Commission in Delhi was fixed while he was abroad, and then chief information commissioner, Dr Wajahat Habibullah, allowed the hearing through audio-conferencing. However, when he began to ask about regular RTI applications filed from the US, he found that Indians there faced many hurdles.

 

The Indian embassy in Washington put its hands up, saying that it could only accept RTI applications pertaining to queries related to its office, or at the most those related to the ministry of external affairs. Indians tried to impress upon the embassy that under Section 6(3) it is the duty of the PIO to forward applications not relevant to him, to the concerned departments. But the embassy refused to take responsibility. This triggered off his campaign.

 

2009: Commodore Batra filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) in April 2009 against the ministries for not providing him the required information. Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit gave an order on 16 April 2010 asking the Department of Personnel and Training to ‘formulate’ a system to “facilitate accessibility of the Act by Indians abroad”.

 

2010: Commodore Batra was joined by activists abroad. The campaign abroad was steered by RTI activist Vishal Kudchadkar, member of Association for India’s Development (AID), living in California. In 2010, a delegation of US-based Indian activists submitted their petition to prime minister Manmohan Singh, carrying 316 signatures from Indians residing in Australia, Burundi, Canada, Dubai, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, UAE, the UK and the US. However, the PMO was silent on this issue (not surprising).

 

What the petition to the PM stated:

The petition said: “Our suggestion is that just as the government has facilitated APIOs by the postal department in India for all public authorities, along similar lines, the government should facilitate an APIO in each Indian Mission/Post in local embassies and charge fees equivalent to rupees.

”Alternatively, we suggest that arrangements may be made by the MEA, the administrative ministry for Indians abroad, for missions to accept RTI fees in foreign currency from applicants filing RTI to central public authorities, using the same procedure as they are hitherto doing for RTI applications concerning their own ministry. The mission’s role would be to accept the fee along with a copy of the passport to verify the citizenship and issue a receipt/E-receipt to the applicant for the fee. Thereafter, either the mission or the RTI applicant can forward the application to the concerned central public authority (PA) online… Any additional costs for providing the information can be remitted to the mission in the same way and the receipt/E-receipt given by the mission can serve as proof of payment.'”

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akhilesh yadav

E-postal order as RTI fees from Jan 15

Reported by Chetan Chauhan in hindustantimes.com on Jan 5,2013

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/E-postal-order-as-RTI-fees-from-Jan-15/Article1-985123.aspx

From January 15, the government will allow use of electronic postal order as fees to seek information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

This decision by the Prime Minister's Office would enable people to seek information from their computers after buying an online e-postal order from electronic post office portal.

 

The facility, to be made available from January 15 when the e-post office portal would be launched, an office note of the department of posts said.

To file an RTI application using e-postal order, a person will have to visit the new portal and pay the R10-fee through his or her debit or credit card. The applicant will then have to take a print-out of the e-postal order and mail it to the concerned public authority along with the application.

“This facility will help many NRIs to get information... ,” said RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been seeking the facility for almost two years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Siddharth Pandey in Ndtv.com on March 22, 2013

For Non-Resident Indians, using RTI just got easier | NDTV.com

 

New Delhi/Los Angeles: Vishal Kutchakar, an RTI activist in Los Angeles, today became one of the first Indians living abroad to use a new system put in place by the government to make it easier for Indians living abroad to file Right to Information or RTI applications.

 

Today, the Department of Posts and Telegraph finally launched the online system, which allows Indians living abroad to directly purchase Electronic-Indian Postal Orders (E-IPO) on the Internet. Postal Orders are required as payment accompanying each RTI query.

 

Vishal used the system to do just that -- to purchase an E-IPO to file an RTI with the Indian government from his home in LA.

 

Till now, Indians living abroad had a difficult time paying Rs. 10 fee required with each RTI application as it was difficult to purchase Indian Postal Orders (IPO) or even a demand draft in rupees. Now, anyone living abroad can do that by logging onto the Department of Posts Web site.

 

After completing a one-time registration, RTI applicants abroad can use their credit or debit cards to purchase an E-IPO. The site will generate a unique E-IPO number after each purchase, which the applicants can quote in their RTI application.

 

Retired Air Commodore Lokesh Batra, an RTI activist who has been one of the principal campaigners behind the move in India says, "It has been a long-standing dream for millions of Indians abroad to use this great transparency tool. The E-IPO will allow them to now enjoy the same rights as those living in the country."

 

Four years ago, Mr Batra had gone to visit his daughter in the US. During the two months he spent there, he tried to file RTIs but discovered that it was very difficult to buy IPOs or even a demand draft abroad in Indian rupees. Mr Batra started an online petition to make it easier for NRIs to do this. He even moved the Central Information Commission or CIC, which in 2010 had ordered that a system be put in place to make it possible for Indians living abroad to file RTIs.

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Moiz Mannan in Thepeninsulaqatar.com on 25 March 2013

The NR Eye: NRIs can pay online for RTI queries

 

Non-resident Indians have finally been integrated into their home country’s transparency initiative. Much like the right to vote, the right to information for Indians living abroad had remained largely on paper.

 

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs has at last launched an online system for NRIs to directly purchase the e-IPOs (electronic Indian Postal Orders) which are required to file applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.

 

The Right to Information (Regulation of Fee & Cost) Rules, 2005 provide that a request for obtaining information should be accompanied by an application fee of Rs10 by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers cheque or Indian Postal Order payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority.

 

In order to facilitate filing of RTI applications in Central Government public authorities by Indians living abroad, the Central Government in May last year agreed ‘in-principle’ to start sale of Indian Postal Orders through internet on payment in foreign currency.

 

The decision came after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gave its nod to allowing Indian citizens to purchase IPOs on the net using their credit cards. The matter was stuck for a long time as the RBI had put a number of technical conditions, including security issues, before the service can be opened up for consumers. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the nodal department for implementation of the Act, also took its time in providing the requisite information to start the project.

 

Indians abroad would now be able to log on to the Department of Posts website and register themselves. After doing so, they would need to upload a copy of their passports as proof of citizenship and then make the payment for the RTI online.

 

The move will allow them to then directly file their RTI query related with central government departments online. The department will then send the RTI directly to the concerned information officer who would also be able to log on and verify that the payment has been made.

 

While hundreds of thousands of RTIs have been filed since the RTI Act was passed in 2005, Indians abroad have had a tough time arranging the fees and asking their government for information. Until now, Indians abroad had a difficult time paying the Rs10 fee required with each RTI application as it was difficult to purchase Indian Postal Orders (IPO) or even a demand draft

 

in rupees. The struggle to streamline the RTI fee payment had started in 2008 when RTI activist and retired Air Commodore Lokesh Batra was visiting his daughter in Boston. He wanted to file an RTI application and realised that there was no easy way of paying the fee of Rs10. He then started a petition signed by several hundred Indians across the world asking the government to simplify the process.

 

NRIs in the US had been leading a campaign for their right to use the RTI Act. In November 2007, a group of 73 young US-based NRIs jointly wrote to the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC for information through RTI on the Nandigram violence. They wanted to know the death toll and access the correspondence between the state government and the Ministries of Home and External Affairs. Five days later, the Embassy sent a non-committal reply: “The information is not available with us”. They were unable to file an application under the Act without the Embassy’s assistance.

 

In 2008, the Supreme Court granted all overseas Indians the right to seek information from any public authority, organisation or institution under the Act, saying the right is available to all persons of Indian origin (PIOs) who have obtained the status of Pravasi Bharatiya.

 

The ruling was made by a bench comprising Justices S B Sinha and Cyriac Joseph on an appeal petition by a US-based NRI Dr Kunal Saha, after he was denied information by the West Bengal Medical Council about details of the medical treatment given to his late wife, Dr Anuradha Saha, at a Kolkata hospital.

 

In June 2007, the Indian embassy in Washington, DC brought all its operations under the purview of the RTI Act as a result of the persistent efforts of volunteers from the Association for India’s Development (AID), a non-profit group based in the United States. This meant that the RTI Act was extended to all Indian citizens living in the US. The Supreme Court of India ensured that the RTI Act covers all persons of Indian origin, anywhere in the world.

 

The Central Information Commission in New Delhi issued an order around April 2007 bringing all missions abroad under the purview of the RTI Act.

 

According to an NDTV report, citing a survey conducted by AID among sections of US-based NRIs in 2007, 81 percent of them had paid bribes at various stages in India. The NRIs said they had bribed the authorities for international drivers’ permits and passports while leaving India. At the time of re-entering India, they had to pay bribes to Customs; during their stay in India they paid bribes to obtain land records. Some others have great difficulty in getting income tax refunds.

 

The current facility, though, covers only central government organisations and now the demand for states to follow suit is gaining ground. The Peninsula

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Daily.bhaskar.com on Mar 24, 2013

Now pay RTI Fee from anywhere in the world via eIPO - daily.bhaskar.com

 

In order to enable citizens abroad to pay RTI (Right to Information) fee online, Indian Government has launched Electronic Indian Postal Order.

 

Department of Posts, Ministry of Communications & IT, in association with Department of Personnel and Training and launched e-IPO. This is a facility to purchase an Indian Postal Order electronically by paying a fee on-line through e-Post Office Portal at https://www.epostoffice.gov.in.

 

At present, this facility is available only for Indian Citizens abroad across the globe to facilitate them to seek information under the RTI Act, 2005. Both Debit and Credit Cards of any Bank powered by Visa/Master can be used for this purpose.

 

The applicant needs to register on the website to create a user profile for the first time. The user needs to select the Ministry/Department from whom the information is desired under the RTI Act and the eIPO so generated can be used to seek information from that Ministry/Department only. A printout of the eIPO is to be attached with the RTI application sent in hard copy. In case RTI application is filed electronically, eIPO is required to be attached as an attachment.

 

All the requirements for filling an RTI application as well as other provisions regarding eligibility, time limit, exemptions etc; as provided in the RTI Act, 2005 will continue to apply. Know more about RTI here. You can also access ePostOffice through India Post website at www.indiapost.gov.in.

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