Several deptts not adhering to RTI Act guidelines
JAMMU, Apr 29: As the State Information Commission (SIC) has expressed displeasure over several Government Departments not adhering to the laid down guidelines, the State Government has issued fresh directions to all the Administrative Secretaries, Heads of Departments and Deputy Commissioners to implement the Right to Information Act in letter and spirit that too in a time-bound manner.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that as the several Government Departments were not strictly adhering to the guidelines laid down in the J&K Right to Information Act, the State Information Commission (SIC) had recently sent a communication to the Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal, for his intervention.
In the communication, the SIC mentioned about the outcome of scanning of websites of various administrative departments and those of the Head of Departments subordinate to such Administrative Departments to check the status of uploading of information as mandated under Section 4 of the J&K Right to Information Act, 2009.
During this exercise, the Commission’s Secretariat observed that out of total 36 listed administrative departments (Civil Secretariat level), large number of them have not opened the websites, not posted Section 4 on websites and large number of departments have not posted particulars of the Public Information Officers/ First Appellate Authority.
Moreover, it was found that only few of them have prepared and uploaded the voluntary disclosure of information under Section 5 of the Act. The Commission further observed that the compliance with statutory provisions of Section 4 was much to be desired as large number of departments have yet to think of creating their websites what to speak of posting information.
In the communication sent to the Chief Secretary, the Commission mentioned that RTI Act will not be fully implemented till the mandate given by the State Legislature to the Government under Section 4 of the Act is fully carried out. It was recommended that General Administration Department should issue a time-frame for the identified public authorities to fully implement Section 4 and make a suo-moto declaration on their websites with a copy to the Commission.
The Information Commission also conveyed to the Chief Secretary that for the last one year the role of institution of APIO has not been appreciated and understood in the manner which is envisaged in the Act. “Certain APIOs have passed orders under Section 7 of the Act, which is against the provisions of the Act as such public authorities may be appraised in this regard”, the Commission mentioned in the communication.
The Chief Secretary immediately acted on the concern of the SIC and on his directions, General Administration Department has issued fresh directives to all the Administrative Secretaries, Heads of Departments and Deputy Commissioners mentioning that all the public authorities should take steps for dissemination of information to the residents of the State as provided under the J&K Right to Information Act, 2009 besides ensuring that the mandate of Section 4 is complied with fully by voluntary disclosure of information in a time bound manner.
“The public authorities are also required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers, Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities to perform duties as enshrined in the Act”, the communication of the GAD said stressing that all the Departments should adhere to the time- lines enshrined in Section 4 of RTI Act for voluntary disclosure of information.
Through the communication, the attention of public authorities has also been invited towards the Act and Rules which state that officer to be designated as PIO should not be below the rank of Under Secretary and the Ist Appellate Authority should be an officer senior to the PIO. “If the officers equivalent to the rank of Under Secretaries are appointed as PIOs, the Additional Secretary level officer can function as Ist Appellate Authority so that senior level officers can supervise the overall functioning under the RTI Act”, the communication said.