A lawyer practising in the Madras High Court is surprised to have received a communication penned in Hindi in response to his application in English to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, seeking details under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.
Advocate S. Kumaradevan had submitted an RTI Act application to the Public Information Officer of the Ministry on August 28 seeking details of funds allocated by the Centre between 2014-15 and 2020-21 for promotion of ayurveda, siddha and unani individually. He also wanted to know the number of medical centres operated in these three forms of Indian medicine.
Under the RTI Act, PIOs are under a statutory obligation to either provide the information or transfer the application to the department concerned with due intimation to the applicant. Accordingly, his application appeared to have been transferred to the Union Ministry of AYUSH.
Subsequently, the application somehow landed with the Uttar Pradesh State AYUSH Society and its Mission Director forwarded it to the PIOs of Ayurved and Unani services on October 27 with a request to provide the information sought by the lawyer. Copies of this communication in Hindi were marked to the AYUSH Ministry as well as the lawyer.
“I was taken aback to receive the communication in Hindi. I couldn’t understand head or tail of it. Even my name and address on the envelope had been written in Hindi. Right next to that, someone had scribbled my name and the name of my street alone with a black pen in English. I presume that it must have been done by the local post office so that the postman could deliver it to me,”he said.
“The officers knew very well that the application was made by someone from Tamil Nadu and that it had been made specifically in English. Should they not make sure that communications sent to me should also be in English? Will they accept if I make an RTI application in Tamil? What is the point in forwarding copies of communications in a language that I do not understand?” the lawyer wondered.