Do not take J&K RTI Act casually

The very purpose of any enactment of legislation is ultimately with an aim to benefit the people in one way or the other which could be possible only after the same was be acted upon after an Act comes into force and laws connected to it were made. The Right to Information Act was made effective with effect from March 2009 after the then existing Acts of 2004 and 2008 were amended or repealed respectively. The Act is virtually a replica of central Right to Information Act of 2005. The aim is to bring in more transparency in sharing Government records, with certain exceptions, with the desirous people or the “applicants” and to provide them a legal mandate and the requisite mechanism. Having said so , a cursory perusal of how things were moving under this right to people reveal that those in the Government Departments and institutions required to implement the provisions of this Act meticulously, were unfortunately found taking this right of people subtly and heedlessly and not exhibiting a positive and quick response.
It is not that it was not envisaged and calculated in advance that a certain amount of lackadaisical and reckless approach on the part of certain personnel at vulnerable points would not be there for which a checks and balances system was put in vogue only to make this Act work in an effective way. It is the institution of the State Information Commission which was set up to oversee and supervise the successful implementation of the said Act and even penalise the erring personnel if found working against the spirit of the RTI Act. Many a time, the Commission has been taking serious view of the lacunae in implementation process and suggesting, advising , castigating and even penalising for the non implementation, if earlier views were continuously disregarded.
Poor implementation of the said Act is a telltale of the lose or inefficient administrative system or an indirect revelation, starting with the speculation, that the Government had some fishy reason to hide the information from the public which ordinarily no Government can afford. Hence, the State Commission has decided to start forthwith penalty proceedings against some ‘delinquent’ authorities which include Assistant Commissioner Development, Block Development Officers and Secretary of the Jammu Municipal Corporation and officials of Rural Department. The avoiding , deferring and postponing tactics in submission of the requisite information is perhaps wilfully done by the easy method of “pass on ” syndrome as one officer transfers the application to the one least connected with it and similar other avoidable ways and methods. However, the one not connected with furnishing the critical information does not, at times, return promptly the application to the sender Department and vice- versa resulting in the applicant keeping on filing appeals. Such an outcome is the direct result of the undesirable and unbecoming of conduct of the concerned officer which in the words of the Information Commissioner are, termed as “tricks” only to discourage the appellant from seeking access to the information.
It is undesirable that information in most of the cases was denied without any valid and cogent reasons or grounds, there were instances in open reluctance in cooperating with the state Information Commission and even daring not attending the meetings convened by the Commission. How can such a scenario be not viewed seriously, hence the SIC deciding for penalty proceedings against the defaulting officers which could be of some advisory nature, if not a future deterrent.