Proactive disclosures under RTI Act

Public accountability is a crucial feature that governs the relationship between ‘duty bearers’ and ‘right holders’, the Supreme Court said, underling that power and accountability go hand in hand.

It noted that while all citizens shall have the ‘right to information’ under Section 3 of the RTI Act, the co-relative ‘duty’ in the form of the obligation of public authorities is recognised in Section 4 of the legislation.

As such the court directed that the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions to continuously monitor the implementation of the mandate of Section 4 of the Act as also prescribed by the Department of Personnel and Training in its Guidelines and Memorandums issued from time to time.

Without any doubt, the right to information law or RTI Act was enacted to empower people and bring transparency in governance. As on date, it remains a powerful tool even as a lot more is needed to be done to realize its potential for citizen empowerment.

Nevertheless 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.

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 erstwhile J&K State Information Commission had been persistently requesting for ensuring implementation of the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

Time after time, the General Administration Department 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.

All the departments must disclose the information voluntarily without fail. One also hopes that the disclosures are made regularly and as soon as available.

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