In a welcome news for Indians overseas, the Indian governmment's Right to Information (RTI) online portal will accept payments from international credit cards. The development comes after activist Commodore Lokesh Batra's relentless efforts to ensure that that the Indian population overseas could file RTIs.
According to reports, since 2018 there were issues with the payment gateway which was unable to process fees sent through international cards, which resulted in the non-fulfilment of these filings. RTI is a fundamental right of Indian citizens, and it empowers them to seek information from government offices, departments, and ministries. It helps keep the government accountable, builds transparency, and reduces corruption. It took several RTI filings and years of crusading by Batra for NRIs to once again successfully file RTI applications.
On August 5, 2023, the government Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) made it possible for NRIs to pay RTI online fees through local credit cards, issued in the country of their current residence. Batra had filed an RTI on February 25, 2021, with the public information officer (PIO) of the DoPT requesting information on the suitability/capability of RTI’s online portal for NRIs/Indian citizens living abroad for facilitating the payment of RTI fees using cards issued by banks abroad.
The next month, he received an incorrect response that stated SBI/Mastercard/Visa/RuPay cards could be used to make the payment. This turned out to be untrue as payments made with international cards on the online RTI portal did not go through. Batra then filed two appeals against the central public information officer (CPIO) for misleading responses to his RTI query.
Additionally, he filed an RTI application with the State Bank of India which confirmed that the government of India needed to request the bank to enable the functionality of foreign card transactions after which payments can be made using those cards. During the second appeal hearing on August 5, 2023, the CPIO was directed to look into SBI’s response which stated that a go-ahead was standing in the way of facilitating payments on RTI’s online portal using international cards, thus marking the success of Batra’s efforts, as reported by MoneyLife.
Commending Batra’s efforts, U.S.-based NRI Suresh Ediga tweeted, “Now all NRIs can file RTIs using https://rtionline.gov.in Thanks to none other than @CommodoreBatra for his relentless pursuit in ensuring RTIs can be filed by NRI's. There was an issue with the payment gateway unable to handle international cards which Commodore help resolve.”