Is J&K Bank a holy cow or a public authority? Finally, the full bench --- the chief information commissioner and two commissioners --- will decide on the contentious issue on Tuesday in Jammu.
The bank argues it does not come under the purview of the J-K Right to Information Act 2009 despite having the state government as 51% share holder.
The bank returned an RTI application last year of Sayeed Naseer-ullah Shah, a member of the Pensioners Welfare Association, seeking break up of vacancies generated in the bank for Class IV employees’ and clerk-cum-cashiers since 2002 to 2010.
The RTI application also sought the list of those selected against these posts. The application, however, touched a raw nerve by asking about “the manner in which recruitment was made” and “copies of advertisements”.
“We also sought information about the selection committee members,” said Shah.
The J&K Bank is the state’s leading bank and surpassed the business target of Rs. 85,000 crore in the FY 2011-12. With more than 548 branches, the bank is spread across 20 states and one union territory. The bank has become a major job provider in the state.
“During a workshop in Kashmir, former central chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the bank comes under the purview of the Act,” said Shah.
The bank, however, argues that “J&K Bank Ltd is a company incorporated under the J-K Companies Act 1977 does not come under the purview of RTI Act 2009 in as much as it’s not public authority as defined by Section 2(f) of the Act”.
Shah, along with three petitioners, pleaded before the information commission’s office that the state government has 51% share in the bank and should be brought under the purview of the Act.
“All money in the bank is public money and as per the Act such companies have to abide by the Act,” said Shah.
The bank’s functioning, the petitioners allege, is monarchic. “It has becoming a holy cow and untouchable with no accountability or a sense of democratic structure,” they said.
The state’s oldest bank was founded on October 1, 1938 under letters patent issued by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, and commenced business in 1939.
It was established as a semi-state bank with participation in capital by the state government and the public under the control of the government. But under the extension of Central laws to the state, the bank was defined as a government company as per the provisions of Indian companies act 1956.
Ever since the J-K RTI Act was enacted in the state, the successive chairmen of the bank opposed the idea of opening up to queries about its functioning.
The case is listed before the full bench for Tuesday in Jammu.