Greater Kashmir: Srinagar: Tuesday, February 14, 2017.
In absence of office bearers in State Information Commission (SIC), officials have started to give cold response to applications filed by information seekers, under Right to Information Act.
SIC is presently functioning without any office bearers, as all of them have completed their term and the state government so far has not appointed new members and the CIC.
Information seekers said that in absence of office bearers in SIC, they are not able to file appeals. “Some officials in government offices are exploiting the situation. They deny information or conceal the facts we need. Sometimes, applications are thrown in dustbins,” said Muhammad Yaseen, an information seeker.
He added that he had filed an application under RTI Act in Flood and Control Department. “I am not satisfied with the reply provided by the officials. There is lot of information missing in the reply. My remedy, under law was to approach SIC after getting unsatisfactory reply from the second appellate authority,” he said.
The information seekers said that keeping SIC defunct has defeated the very purpose of RTI Act in J&K state. “SIC, an appellate body to enforce right to information and ensure compliance of State Right to Information Act, continues to remain virtually defunct, as the commission besides being headless is also without the two member commissioners. It has encouraged some officials to deny information under the Act,” they said.
The commission is a three member autonomous body which w as headed by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) with two other commissioners. The ‘undue delay’ in appointment of new SIC and other two members has left the commission completely defunct. The former CIC, GR Sufi, completed his term on February 29, last year while the posts of both State Information Commissioners are still vacant.
The need to appoint new CIC and other two commissioners, according to RTI activists, is need of the hour so that people could use RTIAct effectively.
“It literally means that you have law in books but not applicable on ground. The present regime in its election manifesto had promised transparency. This law has helped lot of people to resolve their issues,” said Sheikh Riyaz of Kathidarwaza.
He added that that law has empowered the common man.
“Ordinary people feel empowered by RTI. Several scams have been unearthed in RDD. Government officials were made to pay back embezzled money into Government treasuries in Chadoora and Khansahib blocks in Budgam,” he said.
“Poor and deprived people sought information about the expense incurred on CM's chopper, which was not possible earlier. Candidates dropped by PSC got selected in KAS. SKIMS doctor Dr Reyaz Dagga who was shown failed in MD exam passed with flying colours after he used RTI. Assets of KAS, IAS officers were made public,” he added.
However, he said that some lacunae and failures are also the part of seven years achievements.
Renowned RTI, Raja Muzafar said that undue delay in appointment of new office bearers is “unfortunate.”
“After retirement of State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) G R Sufi and other two members, State Information Commission (SIC) has become defunct and this is creating a big hurdle for implementation of RTI Act. Lots of cases are pending before Information Commission. We appeal Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for her immediate intervention so that these vacancies are filled as soon as possible,” he said.