Int'l Day for Universal Access to Information|RTI activists rue winding up of J&K Information Commission

On the occasion of International Day for Universal Access to Information, activists on Monday rued the non-existence of a body in J&K to look into complaints about delay by the authorities in providing information under the RTI Act.

Instead of celebrating the Day, a group of RTI activists led by Raja Muzaffar Bhat gathered at Press Enclave here and explained the importance of the erstwhile State Information Commission, which became defunct following Union Government’s decision to abrogate J&K’s special status. “It is not a day for celebration. In fact, it is the day for mourning, since there is no Information Commission here. The Commission acts as a nervous system of RTI Act. When there is no Information Commission, how can we get over appeal disposal? Now people have to appeal in New Delhi, directly to Central Information Commission for redressal of their appeals,” Bhat said.

Talking to reporters, he said the government had claimed that after Article 370 abrogation, there would be good governance, transparency and accountability in J&K. “Practically, this all is not happening. On the ground something else is happening. The reason for it is that Central RTI Act has been implemented here. We had got a well-defined Commission. Everything was in it. However, since it has been clubbed with CIC, it has become difficult for a poor man to go to Delhi for appeal,” said Bhat.

Under erstwhile RTI-Act 2009, it was imperative for Commission to dispose-off complaints within stipulated time of 60 days or else explain the delay in the response, if the person was denied information by an official, designated as Public Information Officer and First Appellate Authority, in every government department.

Bhat said with extension of Central RTI Act-2009, the complaints can linger on for months together or even years. He said no efforts were being made to sensitize officials with regards to new RTI Act. “The corruption is increasing day by day. Officers are not giving information. No awareness is being created among the masses regarding new Central Act. Even government officers with regards to the Central Act have no training and information,” he said. Later, RTI activists held a sit-in at Pratap Park here.