Union Minister Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file RTI applications.

NRIs not eligible to file RTI Centres reply to Lok Sabha triggers protestsPTI
news Controversy Thursday, August 09, 2018 - 17:35

Non-Resident Indians cannot file Right to Information (RTI) applications to seek information from union government departments, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. 

“Only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005. Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file RTI applications,” MoS PMO Jitendra Singh said in a written reply. 

He said subject to the provisions of the Act, the citizens of India could file an online application under the Right to Information Act, 2005. 

“Currently, systems of 2,200 public authorities have been aligned to receive, process and reply to online RTIs from the applicants,” the Minister added, responding to a question asked by MP Jugal Kishore Sharma.  

Speaking to TNM Sunil Kumar KK, an NRI living in Oman, said that it reveals that the government doesn’t see them as Indian citizens.  

“This is a shame. Why can’t we enjoy the facilities that Indians living in India do? We ask only those questions which can be asked according to the Act. So, why should they deny us the online facility?” Sunil asked.  

“Additionally, isn’t it impractical to visit the embassy if we are located in a remote area in a foreign land? Many other countries are organising a voting facility for their non-resident citizens. We don’t have that either. And now, they have said no to this (RTI) too,” Sunil added.  

Shameer PTK, another resident of Oman, said that he is surprised to hear that the government has denied them the right in the time of Digital India.  

“On one side, the government is upholding the theme of Digital India and on the other side, we are being denied the online facility to seek information from government through RTI Act,” Shameer said, adding that it amounts to discrimination. 

“Even for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas participation, the government provides online registration only. But to seek information through RTI Act online, they are saying no. It’s like the Orange Passport issue,” he said.  

The government had earlier planned orange-coloured passports for Emigration Clearance Required Category Indians for when they travel abroad for a job. However, it was scrapped after protests.  

“It looks like the moment you leave India for a job, you are stripped of rights and are seen as an alien. In foreign lands too, you don’t get the basic rights that the locals enjoy and then your own home country denies them,” said Jacob Koshy, an Indian resident in Qatar.  

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday took to Twitter to state that denying NRIs the right to file RTIs is wrong. 

“This is flat-out wrong. NRIs are citizens of India who happen to live abroad. Of course, they have all the rights of Indian citizens living in India! It is foreigners (eg OCI card-holders) Who are not eligible to file RTI,” he tweeted. 

Currently, there are allegations that the union government is planning to amend the RTI Act and many allege that the amendment might weaken the Act.  

According to LiveLaw, after months of protests led by several RTI activists against the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018, a voice of dissent has risen from within the Central Information Commission against the proposed changes to the Right to Information Act, 2005. 

With Chief Information Commissioner R.K. Mathur on leave, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has written to the senior-most Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad, highlighting several deficiencies in the Bill. The letter, marked to all his fellow Commissioners, also proposes that all of them come together to seek the withdrawal of the Bill.