Listening to Carnatic music, watching and being with nature, reading and discussing Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy.

S Madhavan

Of govt departments and RTI

| Updated on September 05, 2013 Published on September 03, 2013

Government officials are more adept in passing the buck than answering questions.

When my apartment’s property tax was more than doubled to Rs 1,620 from a mere Rs 630, I was furious. The previous owner simply paid the tax asked by the officials and washed his hands of the deal.

When I informed the officials that many in the apartment complex pay around Rs 630 only, I got a reply that they were assessed under an old regulation. And that if I shared their particulars, their tax too would be enhanced to that level.

I didn't want to do that as it is the officials’ duty to enforce collection. But I told them that I won’t pay the amount until it was revised for others too. Two years after that a new registration happened. The new owner was asked to pay less than Rs 1,100, for an area more than that of mine. I took his property tax details and argued with the officials over using two yardsticks within the same complex.

After a prolonged argument, the official finally agreed to reduce my property tax to Rs 1,160 from Rs 1,620.

Government officials arrive at the property tax figures depending on the street, locality that you live in. For example, if it is Kallukaaranpet (Kolakaaran pettai) in Royapettah (Chennai), there is one rate, and for the same place, if it is mentioned as Gowdiya Mutt Road (Chennai), a different rate could be charged.

Sometime ago when I asked for a detail from a Government department, the officials demanded that I should reveal my identity related to the problem and a mere address and phone number were not enough. When I questioned the logic for demanding those details, I was told by the department that it was mandatory under some Act.

My subsequent pleas regarding the issue were simply rejected by the department. Then I consulted a legal portal over whether I needed to reveal my connected identities to get information as simple as, for example, as to what is the maximum bonus one is eligible under the Bonus Act. I learnt that I did not have to reveal my employment particulars for this, and the department was duty-bound to furnish that.

Armed with this information, I wrote to the Department that I would be seeking the information under the RTI.

There was no reply to that but there there were no more assertions that the Act required my other particulars. The department simply ignored my letter. When they find themselves in a corner they keep mum under the hope that the person would not go any further. Generally, people wait for a confirmation from the officials and in due course forget the issue itself.

However, I promptly shot off a letter to the Public Information Officer seeking information under the RTI, affixing a Rs 10 court fee stamp. As a prescribed time schedule is attached to it, I promptly got a reply from the PIO that my application would be processed and a reply would be sent to me soon.

Section 6 (2) of Right to Information Act, 2005 says: An applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

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Published on September 03, 2013
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