When Khurshid Ahmad Ganai resigned from the post of State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) it surprised everybody. Most of the people who keep a close watch on the political developments in Jammu & Kashmir have a firm belief that Khurshid Ganai got a better opportunity to serve as Advisor to Governor. I could not believe he would resign, keeping the fact in mind that he still had more than 2 years in office. When I saw the order of his resignation on a whatsapp group , I was very much disturbed. For some time I thought Mr Khurshid Ganai is an opportunist, but after analyzing the whole issue I was of strong belief that there is another aspect to his resignation. I have been following Mr Khurshid Ganai's orders right from the day he assumed the office of State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). As CIC Khurshid sahib issued several circulars asking Government to adhere to the provisions JK RTI Act 2009. But Government was never serious and his orders were continuously dishonoured by the Government as it did in past during G R Sufi's tenure. From last few months I had been observing that Khurshid sahib was not feeling comfortable or enjoying his assignment to the best of his satisfaction. Having been an upright, smart and intelligent bureaucrat in past Khurshid Ganai's circulars, notices were disrespected by the Government. I believe when he got an offer to work as Advisor to Governor which is in fact a temporary assignment , Khurshid Ahmad Ganai found this a better opportunity to serve the people of state.
Circulars issued by CIC
J&K State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) is a highly respected position. The CIC is of the rank and status of Election Commissioner of India / Supreme Court Judge. This is not the case with CIC's appointed in other states of India. For the information of readers other than CIC there is a provision of appointing two other Information Commissioners (ICs) State Information Commission (SIC). The ICs hold rank and status equivalent to State Chief Secretary. The present Information Commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir who retired as Commissioner Secretary to Government Revenue Department is now having rank and status of a Chief Secretary.
Khurshid Ahmad Ganai soon after assuming the office of State Chief Information Commissioner with an aim of ensuring better implementation of RTI law issued a notice wherein he stressed on voluntary disclosure of information under section 4 of J&K RTI Act 2009.The notification No: SIC/J/15/2009 -11/148-80 issued on March 17th 2017 reads as :
"Whereas it has come to the notice of State Information Commission that a large number of Public Authorities in state have not made suomoto disclosure of information in terms of section 4 of J&K RTI Act 2009 and have not taken various steps mentioned therein for the same purpose. Now therefore in exercise of the powers conferred under section 22 (5) of J&K RTI Act 2009 , J&K State Information Commission makes recommendations to all such Public Authorities in the state to take necessary steps so as to confirm all the provisions of section 4. The State Information Commission also recommends that action / actions in this regard be taken and completed by or before 30th June 2017 to achieve such conformity".
Unfortunately this order was not respected until the deadline ended. Then on CIC's direction another notice was issued and the deadline was extended by September 2017 , but the circular was not at all respected. Even till date section 4 is being violated by most of the Govt departments. Infact General Administration Department (GAD) did issue notices to Deputy Commissioners , Directorates and other public authorities under its control , unfortunately 90 % of these public authorities did not respect GAD's notices and circulars as well . Similarly Khurshid sahib issued several recommendations to the Government like making amendments in J&K RTI Act 2009 and bringing First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) under penalty provisions but Government was not at all bothered to even go through his recommendations. CIC also issued notice to Government to undertake awareness programmes in far off places for people in general and to train its officials as mandated under section 23 of J&K RTI Act 2009, but this circular also had no takers in the administration.
When we noticed Government is not acting on CIC's orders, notices and circulars, our organization Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement sought judicial intervention by filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the J&K High court. We prayed for implementation of section 4 and section 23 of J&K RTI Act 2009 ie to make voluntary disclosure of information through official websites and to create massive awareness about RTI law.
It was so shocking that after filing PIL , General Administration Department (GAD) issued two notices to all the DCs asking them update on implementation of section 4 and 23 , but they hardly forwarded their response until May 15th when the case was listed. Except the Institute of Management Public Administration & Rural Development IMPARD no other public authority responded to GADs notice. I was shocked to notice that from 75 workshops conducted between 2011 to 2014, IMPA had conducted mere 5 workshops on RTI during recent 3 years. In such a scenario when field level officers do not respond to GADs notice , budget on RTI training and awareness is not at all allocated, CIC's orders are not respected, what can an upright person do ?
I know that the post of Advisor to Governor is not a permanent assignment, but at the same time what Khurshid sahib could not do as CIC can be done now ? If he can ensure only 70 to 80 % implementation of section 4 and section 23 within a few months plus impressing upon Governor Vohra to make changes through an ordinance in State RTI Act by bringing FAAs also under penalty ambit and ensuring appointment of CIC's and ICs within a specific time period, I think Khurshid sahib will do a great service towards RTI in Jammu & Kashmir….