RTI queries flood Pune Archive, applicants seek copies of documents from early 19th century

The archive has a procedure that asks a document seeker to pay a “search” fee of Rs 250 per search and photocopies are charged at Rs 10 per page, and the normal time period is three months. However, an RTI is disposed of in one month without any search fee and the photocopy charges are nominal.

Pune Archive, the repository of century-old documents belonging to the era of Peshwas has a unique problem in its hand. Instead of the customary method of seeking copies of documents, many applicants are now resorting to RTI to get photocopies of documents, some of which date back to the early 19th century.

Located opposite the Council Hall, the blackstone building of Pune Archive houses more than 11,000 documents of the Inam Commission set up by the British Government in the 19th century.

The commission was given the task of documenting the land records of the state. It had looked through more than 32,000 documents to sanitise the records. Along with the reports of the Inam Commission, the Archive also houses Peshwa Daftars — documents dating back to the time of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj and the kings of Satara. Over the past few years, as land prices in and around Pune have spiralled, demand for these documents have started rising.

Land litigants have used these documents to bolster their cases in courts. The archive has a long laid down procedure that asks a document seeker to pay a “search” fee of Rs 250 per search and photocopies are charged at Rs 10 per page.

The fee structure has been laid down by the government and the normal time period for accessing the documents is three months.

But RTI requires a shorter time for disposal — one month. Also, the search fees are not applicable to RTI documents and the photocopy charge is
Rs 2 per page.

On an average, 10-15 such applications are received by the office per month, while normal RTI applications are rare.

“We get a normal RTI application, say, once in three months,” said an officer at the archive. Ramesh Jagtap, the assistant director of the archive confirmed it.

Officers said they are now relying on a Central Information Commission (CIC) that has allowed for the practices, which predate the RTI Act, in ways of dissemination of documents.

Cases have also come in front of the office wherein officers have been threatened with legal action by applicants who want to access documents without paying the requisite fees.

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