Information is a powerful tool in the hands of citizens. In this context, the Right to Information (RTI) Act remains an important legislation to provide access government’s working and bring in transparency.
There are sometimes delays on part of the government functionaries in furnishing the information and at times the information is denied by resorting to jugglery.
There are other shortcomings which make the ambition legislation pale into somewhat insignificant because authorities at different levels have more often than not provided information, more so suo- moto. There is no doubt about the Act’s role in fostering a more informed citizenry and an accountable government. However there have been persistent and growing worries and one such remains non adherence by many departments to Section 4 of Act which makes it binding for all the public authorities operating in the Jammu and Kashmir to make the suo-moto and pro-active disclosure of all the permissible information available with them within a period of 120 days from the date of commencement of the legislation.
The RTI Act of the erstwhile State was repealed by the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 passed by the Parliament and Central Right to Information Act, 2005 became applicable from October 31, 2019.
The erstwhile J&K State Information Commission had been persistently requesting for ensuring implementation of the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
Time and again, the GAD had issued circulars and asked such departments who have not so far created their own departmental websites to do so within a fortnight and host the requisite material on the websites under the provisions of the Right to Information Act on regular basis.
The former CIC had shared details with the GAD about the status of different departments regarding creation of websites, disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act, appointment of Public Information Officer and First Appellate Authority. Later part of 2005 Act was implemented.
Under Sec 4 of the RTI Act, the departments need to maintain all records in a manner which facilitates the right to information and can be computerised within a reasonable time; provide information suomotu at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet; publish particulars of its organisation, functions and duties, the decision making process, a statement on its documents, consultation processes on its policies, details of on subsidy programmes, the budget allocated to each of its agency. The Government needs to arrange a workshop for the concerned officers to acquaint them with what the RTI Act stood for and why action under it is required to be taken promptly.