Dr Raja MuzaffarBhat
When State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik decided to bring Jammu & Kashmir Bank under the ambit of Right to Information Act (RTI), it generated lot of optimism and sanguineness among citizens of the state. Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement was the first organization to welcome this move officially. We congratulated Governor and his advisors over the decision while as several political parties including NC and PDP, trade unions and business houses expressed their resentment. On behalf of my organization ,I emailed an official letter to Chairman and CEO Jammu & Kashmir Bank on the very next day when SAC took this historic decision. Vide official communication No: JKRTIM/27-18 Dated 23.11.2018 , a letter via email was sent on Chairman and CEOs official email ID firstname.lastname@example.org. I urged theChairman and CEO to start the process of designating Public Information Officers (PIOs) in different business units of JK Bank as the institution was declared as Public Authority by Government headed by Governor. Pertinently Government of Jammu & Kashmir happens to be 61 % shareholder in J&K Bank.
The letter emailed to Chairman and CEO JK Bank reads “Your attention is invited to the decision of the State Administrative Council (SAC) dated 22.11.2018 wherein Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd has been brought within the purview of J&K RTI Act 2009. Your attention is also invited to the full bench judgment of J&K State Information Commission dated 24.04.2012 in case titled ” Vilakshana Singh , Syed Nasarullah , DrVarunSuthra , ImmamulAnsarullah, Raman Sharma , Sunal Mahajan , Shalini Gupta , Dineshwar Singh Jamwal and Chuni Law V/S Chairman & CEO J&K Bank. The operative part of which is quoted below :
Accordingly having dec-lared the J&K Bank Ltd. to be a “Public Authority” as defined in Section 2 of the State RTI Act, the Chairman / Chief Executive Officer of the Bank is directed to designate First Appellate Authority/Authorities, Public Information Officer/Officers and Assistant Public Information Officers as provided under Section 5 of the RTI Act. His attention is specifically invited to Section 5 of the State RTI Act 2009 which 34 enjoins upon Public Authorities to designate as many officers as Public Information Officers in all administrative units or offices under it as may be necessary to provide information to residents of the state seeking such information under the Act. The applications made to the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, and other executives of J&K Bank Ltd by various complainants who have filed complaints before this Commission, be forwarded to the concerned Public Information Officers and they be directed to dispose of those applications in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 of the State Right to Information Act. The Chairman of the Bank shall also kindly take necessary steps to impart training and sensitize the officers so designated about the various provisions of the State RTI Act, 2009 read with State RTI Rules, 2010. In this connection if the Bank desired any assistance and guidance of this Commission, the Commission may be approached and requested for doing the same. The Chairman being the Public Authority of J&K Bank Ltd is also directed to ensure the implementation of provisions of Section 4 of the Act “. In view of the decision of the state Government coupled with judgment of State Information Commission (SIC) you are requested to furnish the desired information to all the information seekers who had submitted their RTI applications with effect from commencement of J&K RTI Act 2009 till date without any further delay after designating Public Information Officers ”
As already mentioned in my previous columns, we had reservations about other part SACs decision declaring J&K Bank as “Public Sector Undertaking” (PSU). This issue needs to be debated and discussed as the condition of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in Jammu & Kashmir like SRTC, JK Cements , JK Minerals , JK Handicrafts Corporation , State Financial Corporation (SFC) etc is very pathetic. Most of these State PSUs have turned out to be white elephants causing severe financial liabilities on State exchequer. Infact Governor had assured to address that issue and some order was also issued by Government. From last more than a month there is no clarity over the issue of Jammu & Kashmir Bank. Ironically till date neither the JK Bank has responded to my email nor has the bank designated any Public Information Officers (PIOs) as mandated under section 5 of J&K RTI Act 2009. Infact some RTI applications have also not been responded. On the other hand JK Bank is in a mess. Reportedly in March 2018 JK Bank sold two Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of few top business houses to an Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) at a 40 % discount which works around Rs 720 crores. When both these business giants were ready to pay backthe borrowed money to other banks through a deal why did JK Bank sold the NPAs to an ARC at 40 % discount only a month before that deal which was made with other banks? Giving 40 % discount to an ARC brought a great setback to JK Bank. Was this a deliberate attempt ? The matter needs to be probed thoroughly. J&K Government which is more than 60 % shareholder in JK Bank was very much proactive over the transparency and accountability in this bank some months back but from last one month authorities seem completely tightlipped.
Conscious citizens of Jammu & Kashmir are unable to understand why has the Governor and his advisors maintained silence over the issue of J&K Bank ?Has SACs order declaring J&K Bank a Public Authority been revoked ? Will J&K Bank not at all respond to RTI queries ? Will this bank not make voluntary disclosure of the wilful defaulters ?Will this bank continue to be opaque and ambiguous organization ? These are the queries Government must respond to ….
(The author is is founder & Chairman of J&K RTI Movement)
Dr Raja MuzaffarBhat