The State Information Commission (SIC), a premier institution aimed to curb corruption in the State through free flow of information, continues to remain headless.
The former Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), GR Sufi, completed his term on February 29 this year while the post of one State Information Commissioner was already vacant.
As the state was under Governor's Rule at the time CIC retired, it was not possible to make new appointment due to the procedure to be followed for new CICs's selection. The need to appoint new CIC and another Commissioner, according to RTI activists, is need of the hour so that people could use RTI Act effectively.
Former CIC, GR Sufi, while speaking at a seminar at Central University of Kashmir organized to commemorate 7 years of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Act 2009 had said that constitution of SIC was very essential for ensuring good governance. Sufi had earlier revealed that he spoke to Government several times to appoint Information Commissioner after Dr S K Sharma retired from the Information Commission last year in October.
"After retirement of State Chief Information Commissioner G R Sufi and Dr S K Sharma, the State Information Commission has almost become defunct and this is creating a big hurdle in implementation of RTI Act. Lot of cases are pending before Information Commission. One commissioner alone can't do justice with so many pending appeals and complaints. We appeal Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for her immediate intervention so that these vacancies are filled as soon as possible," said Dr Raja Muzafar Bhat, founder of J&K RTI Movement.
Under the provisions of J&K RTI Act 2009 the Information Commissioners and Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) can only be appointed by the Governor when the selection committee consisting of CM, Leader of Opposition and one Cabinet Minister nominated by CM recommends the suitable candidate.
"The elected government must initiate the process in the interest of public and appoint CIC and another Commissioner," he added. "It is very sad that the elected Government could not short list the names of probable Information Commissioners after Dr S K Sharma retired in October 2015. They had almost 3 months until the death of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed to appoint new Information Commissioner. But now we demand immediate appointment on these positions," said Balvinder Singh, Convener of Jammu-based Sangharsh RTI Movement.
Presently, the SIC has only one Information Commissioner.