With awareness about the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 gaining momentum, the number of information seekers preferring appeals before State Information Commission (SIC) after authorities fail to provide satisfactory response to their applications, has also shown an upward trend over the years.
The available official data revealed that the number of appeals before Second Appellate Authority is increasing every year, showing the seriousness of information seekers to approach higher ups to ensure that they get required information.
In 2010-2011, the SIC had decided three appeals and in 2011-2012, it decided 589 while 902 were disposed of in 2012-2013.
The complainants were received by the Commission under section 16 of RTI Act.
"In addition to investigation of complaints, the Commission has Appellate jurisdiction to hear second appeals under section 16 of RTI Act arising out of the first appeals filed before the First Appellate Authority," said an official.
He added that aggrieved information seekers prefer appeal before Second Appellate Authority when they don't receive reply within stipulated time or are aggrieved by the decision of the Public Information Officer (PIO).
The SIC has penalized various PIOs in recent years for failing to provide information to applicants under RTI Act 2009, after aggrieved made an appeal before it.
In 2012-13, eight PIOs were penalized under the Act for failing to adhere to the transparency law.
In 2011-12, there was a case before the SIC in which compensation was also awarded to the information seeker.
"Last few years in particular have witnessed a boom in RTI applications, gaining popularity in the state with people showing interest towards using RTI both for individual and public interest issues. The people's confidence is growing in exercising their right recognized under the J&K RTI Act 2009," said Raja Muzaffar, an RTI activist.
He said that more over 27600 RTI applications have been submitted during 2012-13 which is more than double the number received in the previous year.
Seconding him, Muhammad Yasin Magrey, another RTI activist, said that the wider use of the Act has found its entry in offices of public authority from block level to Chief Minister's secretariat, from small government entities to Governor's secretariat and from sub-district level civil courts to High Court, with people asking for varied kinds of information regarding public authorities.
The SIC has also played a vital role to ensure information is provided to the applicants under rules and norms of the RTI Act.