Home Deptt makes shocking revelation before SIC
Only info about amendments made in 2012 available with GAD
JAMMU, Apr 16: Shocking it may sound but it is a fact that State Government doesn’t have the files containing records about enactment of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act in 1978, which otherwise is considered as a vital tool to tighten noose around those indulging in anti-national activities.
The revelation in this regard was made by none else than the State Home Department before the State Information Commission (SIC) during the proceedings under 2nd Appeal filed by the applicant, who was aggrieved over denial of information by the Public Information Officer and First Appellate Authority of the Home Department.
The appellant had approached the Public Information Officer seeking copy of the Cabinet note that formed the basis for enactment of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act in 1978 and also notes which were considered while carrying out different amendments in the Act in the years 1985, 1988, 2002 and 2012.
Both the Public Information Officer and First Appellate Authority had denied the information to the applicant on the ground that the same was exempted from disclosure in terms of Clause (h) of Sub-Section 1 of Section 8 of the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009. This led to filing of 2nd Appeal before the State Information Commission.
During the course of proceedings under 2nd Appeal, the Public Information Officer of Home Department reiterated the stand taken while denying information to the applicant. However, the appellant in the 2nd Appeal submitted that he had not sought any information which could prejudicially affect the security of the State anyway.
“In terms of Clause (h) of Sub-Section 1 of Section 8, the decision of Council of Ministers, reasons thereof and the material on the basis of which such decision was taken has to be made public after the matter is complete and over”, the appellant further submitted.
After hearing the parties, the State Information Commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir observed, “the decision of Public Information Officer was not inconsonance with the provisions of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 as the first proviso to Section 8(1)(h) provides that there shall be no exemption from disclosure in respect of a decision of the Cabinet, reasons thereof or the material on the basis of which such decision is taken, once the final orders are issued”.
“The Public Information Officer cannot deny information to the appellant as the same is not exempted from the disclosure. Moreover, disclosure of information under Section 8(1)(h) is subject to the other exemptions provided in Clauses (a) to (g) and (i) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act”, the Commission said, adding “even in terms of Section 10 of the RTI Act, the Public Information Officer can severe any part of the information which is otherwise exempted from disclosure”.
In response to the direction of the Commission for reconsidering his decision, the Public Information Officer made a written statement, which reads: “The files containing records pertaining to enactment of Public Safety Act, 1978 and subsequent amendments were destroyed in devastating floods of September 2014 and the destroyed records and files were accordingly weeded out in terms of Government Order No.142-Home of 2014 dated November 18, 2014”.
However, the record relating to the amendment carried out in the Act in 2012 was available with the General Administration Department and accordingly the matter was taken up with the General Administration Department, which has conveyed that the copy of the Cabinet notes/memorandum relating to 2012 amendments shall be provided after the office moves to Srinagar in May 2019.
Though the Information Commissioner preferred not to pass any direction for providing the record which is not available with the Home Department yet it has directed the Public Information Officer to collect the information relating to Cabinet note and material forming the basis of 2012 amendments to the J&K Public Safety Act from the General Administration Department and provide the same to the appellant within a period of two weeks from the date of opening of offices at Srinagar.
“It is a matter of concern that Government doesn’t have the files containing records about enactment of Public Safety Act in 1978 and subsequent amendments made till 2012 but it has preserved records pertaining to several redundant laws”, sources said. How the Home Department can be so callous about preservation of records of such an important piece of legislation, they wondered.