Srinagar, Aug 31:The Legislative Assembly passed the Right to Information (RTI) Act after some of the amendments to the bill were accepted by the government on the floor of the House. Responding to the amendments in the bill put forward by some members, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister, Taj Mohiuiddin on behalf of chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that some of the amendments had been accepted by the government.

He said that the law was in a continuous process of evolution and other amendments could be done in future.

“We are in a hurry to get the bill passed and we do not want to waste time on this issue. We have no objection that the headquarters of the State Information Commission should be at such place where the headquarters of the government are located. As the secretariat moves here from the summer capital to the winter capital, the same would be applicable to the information commission. There is no problem in such an arrangement,” Taj said.

The minister while responding to another amendment said that it was the prerogative of the commission’s chairperson to hold sittings in Jammu or Srinagar. Dismissing the amendment seeking information be given within a week’s time to a person, he said that it was not possible to do before 30 days.

“Commissions cannot be made time bound. It will also hold true for the functioning of the Information Commission once it comes up. There is a ruling from the Supreme Court in this respect. One cannot go against it. We had said that we would compile the complete information in the form of a booklet and it would be done within 18 months. We are ready to amend this and it would be done within 12 months now,” Taj said.

Before this senior National Conference member, Abdul Rahim Rather said that the word practicable be deleted from the draft of the Act. He said that an officer can seek refuge under this heading and easily deny giving information to a person.

He also wanted the government to reduce the time limit from 18 months to three months for the compilation of the information needed to make people aware about the implementation of the new Act. He wanted that the government to refer the bill to a select committee for plugging the loopholes.

MLA Khanyar, Ali Mohammad Sagar said that it was necessary that a property statement of the person appointed as Information Commissioner be furnished before he is appointed to a post.

Ajay Sadhotra of the NC said that the headquarters of State Information Commission should be located near the government headquarters. He also said that the commission should hold sittings both at Srinagar and Jammu.

Making a strong case for referring the bill to the select committee, MLA Kulgam, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that there was no substance in the bill and added that there was a need for more comprehensive debate on it as it concerns the man on street. He said that he had presented an amended bill in the previous session of the House but pointed out that there is no clue about it.

“If you do not empower the common man then it is better not to carry further deliberations on it. Judiciary has not been included in the purview of the bill and there is no direct information, which would be given to the common masses. The information may be in form of CDs, samples and models and this needs to be looked into,” Tarigami said. - Legislative Assembly passes Right to Information (RTI) Act

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