Rights body deplores J&K RTI amendments
Srinagar, September 13: The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) while describing the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill of 2007, adopted by the two houses of the state Legislature, as ‘half-hearted effort’, has urged Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) S. K. Sinha, to withhold his consent on the plea that the Bill had a number of lacunae.
The State Legislature has made some amendments in its existing Right to Information (RTI) Act, claiming to make it at par with Central Act. However, the rights body stresses that the amendments need lot more amendments.
In a communication to the Governor, the Human Rights body has requested Sinha to withhold his consent to the Bill under section 78 of the state constitution.
"The amendments to the RTI bill were inadequate and do not provide citizens seeking information from the public bodies in Jammu and Kashmir the same guarantees and protection available to people in other states,” the rights body remarked.
It has also been requested the Governor to withhold his assent till the state Legislature makes the Bill at a par with the central act passed in 2005.
“The proposed amendments are a half-hearted measure and do not go the whole length of the way to bring the State RTI Act at par with the Central RTI Act. There was no visible public consultation conducted by the State Government prior to the tabling of the Amendments. Several MLAs had strongly argued for referring the Amendment Bill to a joint select committee consisting of members of both Houses of the J&K Legislature for detailed consideration of the Act and the amendments as this is an important law giving effect to a fundamental right of citizens something that was ignored by the state legislature,” the statement issued by the CHRI claimed.
According to CHRI press statement the amendments do not effectively secure the fundamental right to access information for citizens in Jammu and Kashmir. If the Amendment Bill becomes law, citizens will have inferior rights in matters relating to seeking and obtaining information from the Government as compared to that enjoyed by citizens in other parts of the country. Furthermore the amendments will create a weak enforcement mechanism for securing compliance of public bodies with the provisions of the J&K RTI Act. The Amendment Bill requires several changes if it is to bring the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Act at par with the Central RTI Act,
Kashmir Watch :: Headlines
Re: Rights body deplores J&K RTI amendments
Section 8 of RTI act blocks info on HR violations
JAMMU, Sept 14: State is shortly going to have an information commission but with un-amended section 8, it would be inapt in revealing information with regard to Human Rights Violations, alleged custodial killings, disappearances and details of judicial and magisterial inquiries ordered so far.
This is in sharp contrast to the central act which has clearly defined clauses empowering the commission to give the information sought by a person with regard to the human rights violation. Section 24, Sub-Section 1 of the central act says that nothing contained in the act shall apply to intelligence and security organization established by the state government from time to time by notification in the Official Gazette, provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section.
The section further says that that the same information should be provided to the individual within a period of forty five days. This provision in the central act empowers a common man to seek information from the security and intelligence agencies on the issues related to violation of human rights. Interestingly, the act is applicable to all the states across the country and by simply submitting an application one can seek information which has otherwise remained impractical.
However, contrary to this, in Jammu and Kashmir where allegations of human rights violations are an everyday affair, where seeking information from security and intelligence agencies with regard to violations is unattainable, un-amended section 8 of the Jammu and Kashmir right to information act leaves the RTI crusaders high and dry. The un-amended section 8 signifies that the information which commoners would be more interested in knowing cannot be sought from the agencies concerned.
A non-governmental organization Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has reportedly requested Governor S.K.Sinha not to give assent to the RTI Act bill submitted to him. Pointing towards the various deficiencies, CHRI has asked the Governor to return the bill back to the legislature so that the same is referred to a select committee for further deliberations.
They have even sought intervention of the intelligentsia for making the act more powerful and at least at some position with respect to the central act.
Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah has called the act inadequate and implored. He has urged the state government to take effective steps towards removing the deficiencies in the act. He has also sought amendments to section 8 in order to make the act a living legislation in a state like Jammu and Kashmir.
A senior functionary of the law department said that the section should have been amended and brought at par with the central act. “The amendments are not appropriate and a little more effort would have done wonders, but this is expected in a state like Jammu and Kashmir where information which is supposedly defined as confidential when revealed shakes the very foundations of the administration,” added the official.
Section 8 of RTI act blocks info on HR violations (GreaterKashmir.com) 9/15/2007
Re: Rights body deplores J&K RTI amendments
‘State, GoI bound to give information about HR violations’
State RTI Act needs amendments: Lawyers
Srinagar, Nov 11: Stressing that amendments be made in Jammu Kashmir Right to Information Act (RTI) for making it more applicable in Kashmir, lawyers and social activists Sunday said there was need to sensitise people for exercising this right, which provides them access to information.
Speaking at a one-day training workshop on Right to Information Act (RTI), the participants which included lawyers, journalists and social activists highlighted the need to make amendments in an “otherwise weak” JK RTI Act.
Noted social activist and human rights lawyer A R Hanjura said, “Although Jammu Kashmir has its own RTI Act it suffers from discrepancies. There is a need to make some amendments in order to strengthen it.”
He said that keeping the requirement of this act in Jammu Kashmir in view, the parameters of the act should be broadened. “The intelligentsia has a responsibility to sensitise public and make them aware about the law, which could help them have access to information about public works and other developments,” he added.
Former HOD Law Department, University of Kashmir, Afzal Qadri said that the act needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and that it cannot have same applicability as in different Indian states. “The case of Kashmir is peculiar,” he said.
Reacting to a particular issue of Maharashtra to which the speakers were referring Qadri said, “The legislation might have helped people in Maharashtra to get the desired information form the agencies. It may be doing well in different Indian states. However, we need to understand that the Kashmir case is entirely different.”
Qadri said that nobody here knows what happens to the recommendations of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
“The State RTI Act needs amendments and should be framed in such a way that it should benefit a common man as Kashmir situation demands a strong legislation which is more empowered and gives access to information.”
Earlier, advocate Divya Jyoti, a member of ‘Parivartan’ made a presentation on RTI act and informed the participants about the possible provisions and articles, which could be used to get information from any public office. He highlighted the 10 principles of the right to access of information.
“Every public authority is obliged to disclose the information related to the works and other policies. There is a public information officer in Government of India departments who acts as a link and provides the information,” he said.
“However if some department does not have a public information officer which happens in case of the State departments, then the in charge officer of the department is bound to provide the information,” Jyoti added.
He said that there were some exceptions when the concerned agency is not bound to provide the information but in case of human rights violations, the disclosure becomes mandatory.
“Although there are some exceptions but under section 24 it becomes mandatory on part of the agency to disclose the information if it is a case of human rights violation,” she informed.
The workshop was organised by Kashmir unit of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and ‘Parivartan’.
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