In a telephonic conversation with Sumathi earlier this evening, Dr. Kardam informed her that he had no intention of reviewing his earlier order rejecting her appeal against the order of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) at the G.I. Registry, who had priced the information which we had requested for at Rs. 10 per page. Given that Dr. Kardam is not going to review his patently wrong order, it now follows that no information pertaining to patent, trademark and G.I. files will be provided under the R.T.I. Act. (image from here)
Applicants will now instead have to apply under the Patent Rules, Trademark Rules & the G.I. rules for a copy of any files pertaining to registered or applied for patents, trademarks and G.I.s As those of you practicing before the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) are aware, applying under these normal rules means that it is going to be more expensive and more time consuming to get information. Unlike the RTI Act, these rules neither have fixed time limits nor a robust implementation mechanism like the RTI Act, 2005. All of this means that applicants will be left to the whims and fancies of the staff at IPO, thereby once again reversing the power equation in favour of the bureaucrats at the IPO.
What I find most absurd is the manner in which we have found ourselves in this position. Sumathi had originally filed the RTI application seeking for the G.I. files pertaining to Darjeeling Tea. The CPIO of the G.I. Registry agrees to provide the information under the RTI Act but charges Rs. 10 per page. When we inform him that the Central Govt. rules specify only Rs. 2 per page he declines to agrees with us. We file an appeal to Kardam and at the stage of appeal he rules that the RTI Act does not even apply!!! At the stage of appeal!!! This is when he himself had held two months ago that the RTI Act was applicable to such requests.
What I find absolutely surprising in this entire fiasco is that for the last seven years the CPIOs at the IPO have never taken up this objection. Just last year when Shamnad filed RTIs seeking Form 27s of pharma companies, they gave him all the necessary information under the RTI Act, 2005. Why then did Dr. Kardam decide to rule against this accepted position?
In any case the IPO must understand that every reaction spawns an equal and opposite reaction. The rejection of the RTI Act, 2005 by the IPO will reflect extremely negatively on the IPO and its staff, not only in India but at international forums. Transparency is the buzzword in the world of governance today and any move to kill it will attract only criticism.