Supreme Court seeks responses from Centre, 25 states on plea for setting up online RTI portals

The Supreme Court Monday sought responses from the Centre and several states on a plea seeking direction to state governments to set up online RTI portals for people to electronically apply for the required information instead of filing applications physically. A bench comprising Justices N V Ramana and Ajay Rastogi issued notices to the Centre and 25 states on a PIL, filed by Delhi-based NGO Pravasi Legal Cell, which said the RTI Act is a powerful tool and its true objective could be achieved only by timely response to citizens request. The plea said the Centre has established an online RTI portal in which any Indian citizen, including NRIs, can apply for information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department. It said that the Centre in December 2013 had requested state governments to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTI in their respective states but only Maharashtra and Delhi have established portals for that. A person seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from any department of the state government, at present has to make a physical application and cannot do so through any electronic means, said the plea, filed through advocate Jose Abraham. It said that online web portal will only help the Indian citizens including the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) by speedy dissemination of information requested which in turn would only help in achieving the aim of the RTI laws of bringing transparency in administration. The petitioner had approached the concerned authorities in this regard with a representation dated March 29, 2019 but no response have been received yet, it said. The petitioner has approached this court in this Public Interest Litigation to address the problem faced by the citizens in obtaining information under RTI Act due to slow and conventional method of application process, it said. It is also difficult for an NRI who is desirous of obtaining information from any department of the state governments at present since they have to undergo physical application process, it said. The plea said that writ petitions seeking similar prayers are pending before the high courts of Kerala and Gujarat in which notices have been issued to the respective governments. The RTI Act is a powerful tool in the hands of Indian citizens and the true objective of the legislation can be achieved only by timely response to citizens request for government information which can only be achieved by making the entire application as well as appeal process online, it said. The plea said that in cases of NRIs, the present system of physical RTI applications makes it difficult, inconvenient, costly and attributes long delays in providing the desired information under the Act which defeats the letter and spirit of the legislation.