Several Govt officers not feeling comfortable with transparency law
JAMMU, June 25: Several officers of the State Government are not feeling comfortable with the transparency law and willfully creating obstacles in timely disposal of applications and appeals under Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act. This can be gauged from the response of DIG Prisons and Superintendent of Jail to the proceedings before the State Information Commission, which has reprimanded both the officers and sought explanation before writing to the Home Department about their conduct.
As per the case before the State Information Commission, an RTI application was filed before the Public Information Officer/Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar seeking information on certain important points. However, the PIO failed to provide requisite information to the applicant within the stipulated time which prompted the applicant to file first appeal before the First Appellate Authority/DIG in the office of the Director General Prisons.
Though PIO later provided part information but the DIG didn’t even hear the first appeal as such the appellant filed the 2nd appeal before the State Information Commission with the plea that he should be provided full information and penalty as per the provisions of J&K RTI Act may be imposed upon the DIG Prisons and Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar.
When the second appeal filed by Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool first came up for hearing on April 12, 2018, the respondents—DIG Prisons and Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar failed to turn up as such the Commission issued a notice vide No. SIC/K/SA/30/2018/ 1153-54 dated April 18, 2018 to both the respondents.
During the course of hearing on May 15, 2018, the conduct of Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar was found to be unbecoming of an officer who has been given the responsibility of looking after an important institution like Central Jail Srinagar. While PIO gave vague reasons for non-attendance on April 12, 2018, the FAA/DIG Prisons completely not responded to the Commission’s notice.
Accordingly, the Chief Information Commissioner Khurshid Ganai directed Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar to explain as to why penalty under Section 17 may not be imposed upon him for violation of Section 7(1) and for providing incomplete information to the RTI applicant although delayed by more than one month.
Moreover, the FAA, who is reportedly the DIG in the office of the DG Prisons, was asked to explain the violation of RTI Act by him under Section 16 as the FAA and therefore why this violation may not be reported to his Administrative Department-Home Department.
Finally, when the second appeal came up for hearing before the Chief Information Commissioner few days back, PIO/Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar appeared before the Commission and made submissions vis-à-vis furnishing of information, which however was denied by the appellant.
“The Commission has taken a serious view of the failure of the FAA/DIG Prisons to attend the hearings from time to time in the second appeal. The Commission has also taken strong note of the conduct of the FAA, who vide interim order dated May 15, 2015 was directed to explain the violation of RTI Act by him under Section 16 as the FAA and was directed to explain as to why this violation on his part may not be reported to the Home Department”, Chief Information Commissioner has observed.
The FAA has not only failed in attending hearings but has also failed to give any written response with regard to his failure in attending previous hearings in the Commission, the CIC said while directing the Registry to issue show cause notice to the FAA/DIG Prisons to explain his conduct within a period of 10 days.
Moreover, the PIO/Superintendent Jail has been directed to explain as to why he failed to respond to the RTI applicant within the stipulated time as per the provisions of the J&K RTI Act. “His reply should reach the Commission within a period of 15 days failing which action under rules shall be initiated against him”, the CIC said.
“This case is the clear testimony of several officers of the State Government still not feeling comfortable with J&K RTI Act and willfully creating obstacles in ensuring transparency in their respective departments”, sources remarked.