SIC Rendered Toothless: Activists
Srinagar, Aug 30: Jammu and Kashmir Government Thursday did away with the detailed Rules guiding the implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act- 2009. The move comes at a time when Jammu and Kashmir Government has been making repeated claims about ensuring transparency and accountability in governance by a strong RTI Act.
The General Administration Department today notified new RTI Rules 2012 to replace RTI Rules 2010.
The new Rules don’t talk about the procedure to be adopted if the orders of the State Information Commission were not implemented by public authorities; formation of different wings like Registry, Legal Cell, Monitoring and Reporting Wing, Right to Information & Transparency Institute (RITI); procedure for filing First Appeal and filing of counter before First Appellate Authority.
The easiest method of filing RTI application on non-judicial stamp paper has also been omitted from new Rules and new guidelines say that fee can be paid by way of cash against proper receipt, demand draft, bankers cheque or Indian Postal Order.
RTI activists have decried the move, terming it as clipping the wings of State Information Commission and weakening the RTI Act.
“The framing of new Rules is worrisome because there was considerable amount of detail in the previous set of RTI Rules on implementing the Act,” Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator, Access to Information Program, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, told Greater Kashmir over phone.
“Now there is no guidance on how different matters- like functioning of Commission Secretariat, procedure to be adopted in case of non-compliance of Commission orders and other vital matters- will be handled,” he said.
“The Information Commission could take action under the old Rules if a public authority did not comply with its orders. The new rules delete this provision. So the appellant will have no option but to file a writ in J&K High Court to seek enforcement of an order of the Information Commission. How many people can avail this expensive and time consuming option is a big question,” he added.
Venkatesh said that several problematic areas have been created by replacing the old Rules.
“The old Rules contained several provisions about the structure and the working of the Information Commission- such as division of labour, working hours, vacations etc. The new Rules delete all these provisions,” he added.
Convener of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Movement, Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, has castigated the state Government for replacing the old RTI Rules.
“This move is against the basic spirit of transparency. How can Government replace the Rules without taking the stakeholders on board?” Bhat asked.
“This has been done just to stop the Commission from exercising its powers and it has dented the oft-repeated assertions of Government about ensuring transparency in governance by RTI Act,” he said, adding that this move dilutes the authority of the Commission.
However, the RTI activists have welcomed reduction in application fee from Rs 50 to Rs 10.