Srinagar, Sep 6: Irked by the “inaction on part of government departments” towards implementation of the J&K Right to Information Act, the State Information Commission has shot off a missive to the State’s Chief Secretary, asking him to ensure “effective implementation of the legislation in public interest.”
The Chief Information Commissioner, GR Sufi, has formally brought it into the notice of the Chief Secretary “that there is hardly any Public Information Officer who has actually gone through the provisions of the J&K RTI Act of 2009.” “The Appellate Authorities being senior officers have, by and large, failed to pass orders in such a manner which would show that they have understood the import of the term ‘Appellate Authority’,” reads the CIC’s letter to Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal.
The CIC writes that “this pressing issue needs to be brought to the notice of senior officers for effective implementation of the legislation.” “Similarly there is not so encouraging response from Public Authorities (departments under RTI purview) with regard to implementation of Section 4 of the Act,” Sufi mentions.
Section 4 of the RTI Act makes voluntary disclosure of information by public authorities mandatory. “This Commission has been flooded with complaints regarding failure of public authorities to fulfil this statutory obligation to maintain their records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under the Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources , computerized and connected through a network all over the state so that access to such records is facilitated within 120 days from the commencement of this act (Section 4 b),” the CIC’s letter reads.
The CIC has rued that “it is a sad commentary with this piece of legislation which the legislature of the state has rightly described as progressive and people friendly.” The J&K RTI Act has come into force from 20th March 2009. Since then a number of circulars have been forwarded to the government departments on implementation of the legislation.
In 2009, the General Administration Department issued a circular (25-GAD of 2009 Dated 5.6.2009), circulating a uniform format to all the departments for preparing the mandatory information about their organizations and its dissemination through various means.
“However the inaction on part of the Public Authorities over the past two years has by and large resulted into lack of desired compliance with Section 4 (a) and 4 (b) of the Act,” the CIC mentions in the letter. “Therefore the Government has to focus on capacity building of government departments for uploading of RTI manuals without any more loss of time.”
The CIC has asked the Chief Secretary that “in case there is non compliance to the Act and its mandate, the Commission would be constrained to hold Public Authorities for failing in their duty.”
Vide another letter, the SIC has sought effective action on monitoring of the legislation. “The importance of a continuous monitoring and reporting on the Act was emphasized on the Public Authorities with the request for sending quarterly report on the items of information set out in Section 22 of the Act. As per the periodicity of furnishing this report, every department was supposed to furnish it by April this year,” the letter reads. “But the same is yet to be received by the commission. With the result, it could not compile the data for formulation of its annual report which is a statutory requirement in the Act.”
The letter has been forwarded to all Financial Commissioners/Principal Secretaries/Secretaries to Government for immediate compliance.