No focus on suo-moto disclosure of vital details
JAMMU, Apr 19: Unbelievable it may sound but it is a fact that Health and Medical Education Department doesn’t have information about special facilities and benefits available to the senior citizens in the health institutions across the State. In this way, the department is not only putting elderly persons to grave inconvenience but also violating the explicit provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act.
This came to the fore during the proceedings before the State Information Commission, which, while taking serious note of this, has directed the Administrative Secretary to immediately take the corrective measures. Moreover, the Commission has initiated penalty proceedings against a KAS officer, who clumsily handled the RTI application on such an important subject.
In the month of September last year, an application was filed before the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Health and Medical Education Department in the Civil Secretariat seeking information vis-à-vis health care benefits being provided to the senior citizens in all Government Hospitals, Medical Colleges and Super Specialty Hospital across J&K; eligibility criteria for the same and any preferential treatment being given to the senior citizens by the doctors or they are made to suffer at the time of getting consultation in the hospitals as an ordinary person.
However, the then PIO Dr Murtaza Rashid (KAS officer) handled the application casually and transferred the same to the PIOs of Government Medical College Jammu and Director Health Services Jammu despite being aware of the fact that applicant had sought general type of information pertaining to whole of Jammu and Kashmir and it should have been easily available with the Administrative Department.
Finally, the matter reached State Information Commission in the shape of Second Appeal and the Chief Information Commissioner Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, after hearing the parties at length and perusal of record, observed, “The PIO should have collected and collated the information from various sections in the Administrative Department and if necessary from various authorities of the Health and Medical Education Department in the field”, adding “unfortunately this has not been done and the PIO transferred his responsibility through the incorrect use of provisions of RTI Act and without due application of mind as such denied the information to the RTI applicant”.
“The First Appellate Authority-Naseer Ahmad Wani, also a KAS officer, also seems to have disposed of the First Appeal without proper application of mind and due diligence”, the CIC said, adding “the information sought by the appellant falls under the information to be disclosed on suo-moto basis as provided under Section 4 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009”.
While asking the present PIO Nissar Ahmad Wani (Under Secretary) to provide information to the applicant within a period of 30 days after collecting the same from the field agencies, the Commission said, “the information sought for by the RTI applicant is of vital importance to the senior citizens of the State and the PIO must put in the requisite efforts to collect the relevant information and provide the same to the applicant”.
Exercising powers conferred under Section 16((9)(a) of the J&K RTI Act, the Chief Information Commissioner has directed the Administrative Secretary of Health and Medical Education Department to take necessary steps for full implementation of Section 4 of the Act in the Administrative Department and Public Authorities under his jurisdiction.
“The then PIO Dr Murtaza Rashid has violated Section 7(1) of the J&K RTI Act and has failed to furnish the information without any reasonable cause and is therefore liable for imposition of penalty. Accordingly, he is called upon to explain why maximum penalty may not be imposed on him”, the SIC said.
Though the Commission has disposed of the Second Appeal by passing necessary directions to the present PIO yet it has decided to go ahead with the penalty proceedings against the then PIO Dr Murtaza Rashid. “The penalty proceedings will continue”, reads the order of Chief Information Commissioner, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
The proceedings before the State Information Commission have clearly established that Health and Medical Education Department doesn’t have readily available information vis-à-vis facilities and benefits available to the senior citizens in the health institutions.
Moreover, it has come to the fore that despite repeated instructions from the Commission as well as General Administration Department this vital department has yet not started showing compliance to the provisions regarding suo-moto disclosure of information.