It sounds quite unbelievable, at the first instance, that an institution supposed to honour, protect, sustain and ensure full implementation of Jand K Right to Information Act can flout its cardinal provision of the transparency law. The State Information Commission (SIC), the ombudsman of the RTI Act, has not complied with the mandatory provision of coming up with the annual report for as many as three years in a row. Due to this the State Legislature cannot be in a position to get to the basics of the level of compliance to the law by the Public Authorities. The last annual report was prepared by the SIC for the year 2013-14 and thereafter no such report was submitted to the Government. The fence of the garden to guard the garden has been found off the guard.It is, as such, clear that the very purpose of the Act stands thwarted. Needless to add, the basic aim and object of the Act is to empower a citizen, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government,contain corruption and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
The J&K Right to Information Act 2009 makes it clear that at the close of each year, the State Information Commission shall prepare a report on the implementation of the provisions of the Act during that year and forward a copy thereof to the Government. It states that each department must, with reference to the Public Authorities in their jurisdiction, collect and provide such information to the State Information Commission which is required to prepare the report and comply with the requirements concerning the furnishing of that information. Thereafter, the Government, may, as soon as practicable after the end of each year, cause a copy of the report of the State Information Commission to be laid before each House of the State Legislature. It is hard to comprehend that the Commission itself can turn out to be a violator of the provisions of the RTI Act as three annual reports piled up in arrears and not prepared, mandated to be submitted to the Government about the levels of compliance of the law by Public Authorities, resulting in depriving the law makers of the august houses about the implementation status of the transparency law. In other words, there is no implementation available as to the number of requests made to each Public Authority; the number of decisions where applicants were not entitled to access to the documents pursuant to the requests; the provisions of the Act under which these decisions were made; the number of times such provisions were invoked; the number of appeals preferred to the State Information Commission for review; the nature of the appeals and the fate of such appeals.
The annual report gains added significance as it reveals particulars of any disciplinary action taken against any officer in respect of the administration of the RTI Act, as also the amount of charges collected by each Public Authority under the Act and recommendations for reform including recommendation in respect of the particular Public Authority for the development, improvement, modernization, reform or amendment to the Act or other legislation or common law or any other matter relevant for operationalizing the right to access information. This unfolds the saga of the casual approach of the State Information Commission.Is it that in the exercise to collate necessary data from various departments, information and necessary particulars were not forthcoming to the Commission? Was such non- cooperation from the defaulting Government departments, despite best efforts of persuasion, brought into the notice of the senior authorities in the Govt. The General Administration Department is expected to come up with a clarification in this regard without any ado, the matter being of sensitive nature.