SAC issues notice to GAD Secy, seeks info on steps initiated to make SIC functional

*Transparency watchdog lying defunct since Nov 17

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Jan 5: Taking serious note of dilly-dallying approach of the PDP-BJP Coalition Government in infusing new-lease of life in Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission, State Accountability Commission (SAC) has issued notice to Commissioner/ Secretary to Government, General Administration Department asking him to reveal the steps taken so far to make the defunct SIC functional.
EXCELSIOR through different stories has exclusively highlighted the non-serious approach of the Coalition Government in making new appointments to State Information Commission, which has the mandate to ensure strict implementation of Right to Information Act in Jammu and Kashmir.
The first exclusive news-item was published soon after the then Information Commissioner Dr S K Sharma completed his tenure on October 31, 2015 inviting the attention of the Government towards the necessity of filling up of vacant position instantaneously. However, non-serious approach of the Government towards the transparency watchdog continued and in the meanwhile first ever Chief Information Commissioner G R Sufi and another Information Commissioner Nazir Ahmad completed their tenure on February 29, 2016 and November 17, 2016 respectively.
Even on November 17, 2016 which was the last day of Information Commissioner Nazir Ahmad in the State Information Commission, it was exclusively reported by EXCELSIOR that due to sluggishness of the Government this vital body has completely become defunct.
While the Government preferred to remain in deep-slumber instead of initiating steps towards making the transparency watchdog functional, the J&K State Accountability Commission decided to play its role as per the powers conferred under J&K State Accountability Commission Act and accordingly the Commission took suo-moto cognizance of the reports highlighting non-serious approach of the PDP-BJP Coalition, reliable sources told EXCELSIOR.
Now, the Full Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) has issued notice to the Commissioner/Secretary to Government, General Administration Department asking him to explain the steps initiated so far by the Government to infuse new lease of life in the State Information Commission by making new appointments for the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and two Information Commissioners, sources informed.
Giving time to the Commissioner/Secretary to Government, General Administration Department till February 15, 2017 for responding to the notice, the Accountability Commission has asked the officer to reveal as to whether the committee empowered to recommend names for appointments as Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners to the Governor, has convened any meeting on this particular subject so far.
It is pertinent to mention here that as per the provisions of Right to Information Act, a committee comprising of Chief Minister (Chairperson), Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and a Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Chief Minister is empowered to recommend names to the Governor for appointment to the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners.
“The SAC has also sought to know from the Commissioner/Secretary, General Administration Department as to whether any panel of probable for these vacant posts has been prepared so far and if not the reasons behind the same”, sources said, adding that it would be only after going through the reply of the GAD Secretary that the Accountability Commission would pass any order vis-à-vis filling up of posts in State Information Commission.
Sources said that State Information Commission is completely lying defunct at a time when transparency regime was established up to large extent in Jammu and Kashmir and different organs of the Government have developed the habit of responding to the applications under Right to Information Act in a time-bound manner. “Had this Commission been not allowed to become non-operational it would have certainly contributed a lot in taking the level of transparency to more heights”, they remarked.
“The non-serious approach has made it clear that PDP-BJP Coalition Government doesn’t want transparency in its functioning and tall claims in this regard being made in official statements are only aimed at befooling the common masses”, they further remarked.