Kashmir Reader: Srinagar: Thursday, February 16, 2017.
Four constitutional bodies are defunct currently because the government is yet to appoint their heads and members.
The vacancies were created after the term of the statutory heads and members expired last year.
In the State Information Commission, the positions of chief information commissioner (CIC) and state information commissioners have not been filled since 2016.
A year ago, the CIC completed his term and two information commissioners had retired, one in 2015 and the other in 2016.
The constitutional body is not operational because only the CIC and its members have the mandate to dispose of complaints.
The commission, which came into being in 2009 under the Right to Information Act, is an appellate authority where people can file their complaints if denied official information.
In absence of the CIC, the complaints are gathering dust and therefore hitting transparency and accountability in the state.
Chairperson JK RTI Movement Sheikh Ghulam Rasool said the culture of transparency, which was developing in people, is declining as accountability is lacking because of the defunct commission.
“Departments were willingly sharing information under the RTI Act because they were aware about a person’s right of approaching the commission in case of denial. But now that is not the case anymore,” he said.
Secretary general administration department Khurshid Ahmad Shah said government would take a call on filling up the vacancies.
Similarly, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) is another such body where vacancies have not been filled. In December 2016, SERC chairman’s term expired while two members had already completed their term earlier.
The defunct statutory body means lack of regulation in power purchases and supply in the state. Last year, the commission had blamed the power department for distribution losses as it had failed to install power metres as per the electricity Act, 2010. By doing so, the commission had neutralised power department’s habit of blaming people.
Neither power minister Nirmal Singh nor commissioner secretary power department responded to repeated calls.
Jammu and Kashmir Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is another headless body. The commission’s president called it quits last month while two of its members had already completed their term. The commission’s mandate is to protect the interests of consumers by redressing their grievances. Last year, the JK high court while asking the government to fill the vacancies in the commission noted that keeping the commission headless is tantamount to denial of justice to the people. Secretary food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department Shafiq Raina said they have scheduled a meeting for discussing this issue.
Work at Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes is the fourth defunct commission. Last year, social welfare minister Sajad Lone assured on the floor of the legislative assembly that the commission’s chairman would be appointed shortly. The commission recommends areas and downtrodden sections for ‘backward status’ that grants concessions to the people living in these areas. The chairman and the members’ term has expired and since then no fresh appointments have been made.
Secretary social welfare department Sajad Ahmad Khan said the commission would be functional within a month as chairman and its members would be appointed.