SWith 224 appeals and 29 complaints a year, the Right to Information Act in Kashmir is not getting the priority it merits in the government departments. A look at the implementation of the RTI Act reveals how information is denied to the masses.
The Right to Information Act gives power to a citizen to have access to information ‘held by or under the control of the Public Authorities’ in the state. A postal order and an application listing the information to be sought from the concerned official or department is all that is required to file an RTI.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) has to give the information within 30 days. If the PIO fails to provide the information, the RTI applicant can approach the First Appellate Authority (FAA).
And if the FAA also fails to satisfy the applicant, the applicant has the right to approach the State Information Commission (SIC) and appeal violation of his right to information.
The RTI Act is an ideal act guaranteeing freedom to seek information, its implementation however on ground proves to be frustrating for the citizens.
According to the data provided by the State Information Commission, at least 224 appeals have been received by the Commission during the last financial year. An RTI applicant makes a 2nd appeal before the Commission when the PIO or FFA fails to provide information to the applicant or provides him only partial information. Also, 29 complaints have been received by the Commission. An information seekers files a complaint when either he is denied the information and instead of filing 2nd appeal he prefers to register a complaint with the commission or when he is still denied information even after the intervention of the commission.
The data clearly shows that voluntary disclosure of information remains poor in Kashmir.
Here are some examples of how public authorities or departments flout the rules of the RTI Act by not providing the information.
Recently, State Information Commission imposed penalty on CMO Bandipora for ‘intentionally and deliberately’ denying complete information to the complainant.
In yet another case, the commission initiated penalty proceedings under section 17 of the RTI Act 2009 against a PIO from district Kupwara for not providing the information to the RTI applicant.
In another case, the SIC directed police to provide information to the appellant who was denied death certificate and post mortem report of his father, who was allegedly killed in police custody.