Manish Pachouly & Dhaval Kulkarni, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, November 1, 2006
Seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act can be costly at times. Especially when you are asked to cough up as much as Rs 56,000 for some information, you would probably think again before using the Act.
Advocate Vinod Sampat, too, was shocked when he was asked by the Andheri Land Records office to pay an amount of Rs 56, 268 to get information on the structures located on collector’s land across the city.
Sampat had made an application on September 21 to inquire about it. He needed the accurate information to be part of the reference books he is writing on property matters. “I wanted information on such properties because buying properties situated on collector’s land costs an extra amount,” said Sampat.
"However, I was shocked to see the amount asked by the Andheri office,” he said. And the amount was asked only for information on the properties situated under the jurisdiction of Andheri office.
A shocked Sampat wrote to the Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi, on Wednesday, asking him to ascertain the amount demanded from him. He also wrote to the Land Records Officer, Andheri, MT Ingle seeking a clarification on how the amount was arrived.
As per RTI rules, Rs 2 per page is demanded to provide information. "That means they were giving me 28,000 pages as information,” said an amused Sampat.
He said that if his queries were not answered, he would file an appeal with the appellate authority.
When contacted, Ingle said he had charged Sampat according to the rates specified by the state government and the revenue department.
Joshi said that in such cases, it is better for the applicants to ask for the inspection of the files so that they can pin-point the actual documents needed. They can also come in appeal to the commission, he said.
“The information officers can charge rates only as prescribed by the state government and in this case, it is found that the concerned officer is trying to willfully mislead the people, strict action will be taken,” he added.
However, Sampat said that the inspection point should have been mentioned in the letter, “instead of just frightening the applicant by demanding such an astronomical amount.”
“Do you believe that the Land Records office must have counted all the 28,000 pages?”