SIC gets one more Commissioner

Time to enforce RTI in letter & Spirit …..

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 20 2017 10:52PM | Updated Date: Oct 20 2017 10:52PM
SIC gets one more Commissioner

State Information Commission (SIC) which has been constituted under the ambit of J&K RTI Act 2009 became once again operational after Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai former IAS officer was appointed as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) early this year. For several months SIC was completely defunct. Under J&K RTI Act 2009, State Information Commission (SIC) is supposed have three Commissioners. One of the Commissioners is designated as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and other two are designated as Information Commissioner’s. Three Commissioners namely Mr G R Sufi, Mr Nazir Ahmad and Prof S K Sharma already completed their term in SIC . When commission  was reconstituted 2nd time,  three commissioners were supposed to be appointed,  but due to various reasons the selection committee could only recommend CIC’s name . After more than 6 months of CIC’s appointment,  Governor N N Vohra  on the advise of selection committee headed by Chief Minister recently appointed one more Information Commissioner Mr Mohammad Ashraf Mir who has served in State Legal Services for a very long time. Mr Mir has been Law Secretary of J&K Government few years back and prior to his appointment as Information Commissioner he was posted as J&K’s Revenue Secretary. 

Who can be an Information Commissioner ?

It is nowhere mentioned in RTI Act (State / Central RTI law) that the Chief  Information Commissioner (CIC) or Information Commissioner (IC) has to be a former bureaucrat , administrator or a police officer only . Section 12 (5) of J&K RTI Act 2009 says that State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and State Information Commissioner’s shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law , science & technology , social service , management , journalism , mass media or administration & governance. A member of Parliament , State Legislature or member of any political party cannot become an Information Commissioner. Information Commissioner cannot carry out any business or pursue any other profession. In case anyone among these is appointed as Information Commissioner, he or she has to resign from all the aforementioned positions. This is the reason Mr Mohammad Ashraf Mir had to resign from the post of Revenue Secretary to J&K Government prior to his appointment as Information Commissioner.   

Challenges before Commission:  

Until recently CIC , Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai was all alone disposing off appeals and complaints filed before the SIC. Now the work will be distributed among two. RTI Movement  hopes that one more commissioner will be appointed as soon as possible. We recommend that a senior lawyer , academician , journalist , activist preferably a female should be appointed as Information Commissioner. SIC is yet to decide the pending cases such as declaring political parties as public authorities. More than 3 years back SIC headed by the then CIC Mr G R Sufi issued notices to several political parties of J&K that included Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference asking them to clear their stand as to why they shouldn’t be brought under the ambit of J&K RTI Act 2009 ?  These notices were issued after some RTI activists from Jammu had filed a complaint before the State Information Commission (SIC) for not being provided information under RTI by some renowned political parties of the state. Pertinently PDP had shown no resentment over declaring itself a public authority , but NC , Panthers Party , BJP , Congress had shown reluctance to make themselves accountable under RTI. We hope ruling PDP sticks to its earlier stand ? 

Conclusion: 

With two Commissioners in office , the State Information Commission (SIC) has to ensure voluntary disclosure of Information. In-spite of CIC’s June 2017 deadline , majority of Public Authorities have not updated their official websites nor have they made voluntary disclosure of information . State Information Commission (SIC) should penalize all those Public Information Officers (PIOs) who have frequently violated RTI provisions and not adhered to June 30th deadline . If State Information Commission (SIC) will not enforce RTI Act in letter and spirit , corrupt elements in Government will take this institution  for granted and within a few years its fate will be like any other ineffective Commissions of state.