Kashmir amends RTI Act, commissioner cries foul
The Jammu and Kashmir government’s fresh amendments have rendered the most successful institute of public transparency and accountability, state Right to Information Act, powerless, triggering sharp reactions from civil society and political parties.
Surprised state’s chief information commissioner G.R Sofi accused Chief Minister Omar Abdullah-led government of making unnecessary changes to make state information commission (SIC) a “toothless body”.
“In first place, there was no reason to come up with new rules, which have taken soul out of the RTI Act,” said Sufi.
In fresh amendments in the RTI Act 2010 made public this week , rules spread over 27 pages stands discarded. Instead, new rules are on only six pages.
“The old rules had provisions about the structure and the working of the information commission, such as division of labour, working hours, vacations etc. The new rules delete all these provisions,” said J-K RTI Movement chairman Raja Muzaffar Bhat.
Accusing the government of failing to take stakeholders into confidence before making these amendments, Bhat said, “The move is against the basic spirit of transparency. This has been done just to stop the commission from exercising its powers.”
The new rules are silent about implementation of SIC orders and appeals, while old rules made it binding on official to implement orders. According to a new clause, one has to move the high court to get an order implemented.
“Who will go to the high court to make orders implemented? The move has killed the purpose of the RTI,” said lawyer and human rights activist advocate Pervez Imroz.
The amendments are also silent about procedure for filing first appeal and counter before first appellate authority.
“The government has launched disinformation campaign that old rules were not in sync with the Right to Information Act of the State. That is all rubbish. Previous rules were framed after giving them due thought and care,” said SIC chairman Sofi.
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also opposed the government move.“The government’s latest move on the RTI was part of the organised attempt by the coalition government to demolish all instruments and institutions of transparency, accountability and probity in public life,” said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
“This government is afraid of everything that brings accountability in the system,” said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar.