The State Information commission directed the application to deposit the cost of information and supply information to the complainant within seven days
Admittedly, proviso to sub section (5) of Section 7 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 stipulates that no fee shall be chaged from the persons who are of below poverty line. The petitioner having filed his BPL Card showing that he comes under the BPL category, no cost of information can be imposed on him.
The High Court of Orissa noted that
Hence, we deem it fit to direct opposing party no.1 to furnish information as sought for by the petitioner without deposit of any cost therefor.
A division bench of the Odisha High Court comprising of Chief Justice C Nagappan and Justice P Mohanty has ruled that the RTI Act stipulates that no fee shall be charged from the persons who are below poverty line and therefore, the cost for information cannot be imposed on such an applicant.
Vide an order dated July 3, 2013, the Odisha High Court has given direction to the Public Information Officer (PIO), Office of Assistant Engineer National High-way Sub-division, Dist-Nayagarh, Odisha to provide information to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) RTI-Applicant free of cost as per section 7(5) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Sri Kunja Bihari Patra, a BPL-RTI Applicant had submitted RTI Application on dated 8.3.10 and 27.4.2010 to the PIO, office of Assistant Engineer, National High way Sub-division, Nayagarh seeking some information about construction of 224-NH by National Highway Authorities.
It needs to be mentioned here that there was allegation of corruption in the construction of NH-224 by the Public. However, finding no information by the PIO, Sri Kunja Patra approached the Odisha Information Commission by way of filling complaint petition on dated 20.7.11 under section 18 of the RTI Act. He has mentioned in the petition that as he is BPL fellow, he is entitled to get information free of cost. Sri Tarun Kanti Mishra, State Chief Information Commissioner heard the case and directed the Executive Engineer National Highways Division, Bhubaneswar to conduct an enquiry and to submit a report as to whether the applications of the petitions were received by the PIO and timely action was taken thereon.
The Enquiring Officer reported that both the applications as claimed by the petitioner were not received by the office of the Public Information Officer. Subsequently, on 18.12.2012 the Commission directed the PIO to intimate the complainant within fifteen days about the cost of information and supply the information to the complainant within 7 days of the cost of the deposit of the information. Being aggrieved, Sri Kunja Bihari Patra challenged the decision of the Commission in High Court (WPC No- 4797/2013).
Hearing the case and quoting the provision of section 7(5) of the RTI Act, the High Court has directed the PIO, Office of Assistant Engineer, National High way, Nayagarh to provide the information free of cost. Further, it needs to be mentioned here that as per section 7(5) of the RTI Act, the RTI Applicants coming under BPL category are entitled to get the information free of cost. But in Odisha, the State Government and office of Odisha Information Commission has been collecting fees from the BPL people going against the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. Even the Information Commission has gone to the extent of directing the PIO to collect the fees from the BPL people.