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 toa citizen to have access to information 'held by or under the control of thePublic Authorities' in the state. A postal order and an application listing theinformation to be sought from the concerned official or department is all thatis required to file an RTI.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) has togive the information within 30 days. If the PIO fails to provide theinformation, the RTI applicant can approach the First Appellate Authority(FAA).
And if the FAA also fails to satisfy theapplicant, the applicant has the right to approach the State InformationCommission (SIC) and appeal violation of his right to information.
The RTI Act is an ideal act guaranteeingfreedom to seek information, its implementation however on ground proves to be frustratingfor the citizens.
According to the data provided by the StateInformation Commission, at least 224 appeals have been received by theCommission during the last financial year. An RTI applicant makes a 2nd appealbefore the Commission when the PIO or FFA fails to provide information to theapplicant or provides him only partial information. Also, 29 complaints havebeen received by the Commission. An information seekers files a complaint wheneither he is denied the information and instead of filing 2nd appeal he prefersto register a complaint with the commission or when he is still deniedinformation even after the intervention of the commission.
The data clearly shows that voluntarydisclosure of information remains poor in Kashmir.
Here are some examples of how publicauthorities or departments flout the rules of the RTI Act by not providing theinformation.
Recently, State Information Commissionimposed penalty on CMO Bandipora for 'intentionally and deliberately' denyingcomplete information to the complainant.
In yet another case, the commissioninitiated penalty proceedings under section 17 of the RTI Act 2009 against aPIO from district Kupwara for not providing the information to the RTIapplicant.
In another case, the SIC directed police toprovide information to the appellant who was denied death certificate and postmortem report of his father, who was allegedly killed in police custody.