RTI review petition "disposed off"

The IPO, through Dr Kardam, has formally disposed off the review petition I had filed in connection with an appeal filed against an order of the GI Registry under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005. I received the response earlier today. Those of you who have been following the blog over the past few weeks will recognise reference to a thread on the blog about this matter, which Prashant was kind enough to post on my behalf (here, here and here), on account of my immediate inability to do so. (image from here)

The response to the review petition, which I received earlier today can be read here. This is interesting for several reasons: I spoke to Dr Kardam on the evening of Monday, 14 May 2012. That day, he specifically informed me that he would not be replying to the review. This response, interestingly enough, is dated 11 May 2012. While there is no one’s word other than mine and Dr Kardam’s that can vouch for the conversation we had, I did try to verify if indeed he had sent me the response on Friday, 11 May.

This verification surprised me hugely. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the letter had been posted only on the afternoon of Tuesday, 15 May 2012. What actually surprised me was that India Post has a tracking website where you can obtain detailed second-by-second information on what a posted article was going through! (Click through “Details”)!

For those of you who have missed previous episodes of this story, my original RTI application was to the GI Registry seeking information about the Darjeeling GI file. The GI Registry agreed to provide some information, but introduced a whole new fee of Rs 10/=. Their reasoning was that the RTI application pertained to documents that could be obtained under the GI Rules, and therefore, those fees were superior to the fees under the RTI Act (Rs 2/=). I filed an appeal to Dr Kardam at the New Delhi office of the IPO, who upheld the Registry’s order (read here). I then sought a review of the order on certain grounds (read here), to which I received this response.

There are two major issues I have had with the Registry’s original decision, and subsequent responses.
  • First, the GI Registry has consistently refused to ordinarily make information related to GI matters public on their website. As is available in other jurisdictions, and with its counterparts in the Patent Office and Trademark Registry in India itself, such information is usually freely available to its relevant audience. Had the GI registry got its act together on this front, this RTI application need not have been filed in the first place.
  • Second, and besides questions of statutory and regulatory interpretation, by charging the kinds of fees they are, the GI Registry has effectively priced information out of the reach of an ordinary citizen. Again, the critical point is that this information ought to have been in the public domain, and my original RTI application ought not to have been filed at all.
That said, the response at least places on record the IPO’s position in the matter, and helps take this further, to a higher forum. If this will be attempted (given time, money, resources…), is a decision yet to be made, though I have noticed several comments making suggestions in previous posts. As ever, you shall remain – ahem – informed.

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