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news details
9 yrs on, PIOs still not well-versed with RTI
8/16/2018 11:26:21 PM
Ishtiyaq Ahmad

Early Times Report

Srinagar, Aug 16: What could be termed as a failure of the government to ensure transparency, the public information officers (PIOs) in government departments are still not well-versed with it, resulting in denial of information to the applicants.
The RTI Act 2009 was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir nine years ago. Though the State Information Commission (SIC) has taken on the government several times over "deficiencies" in implementation of the Act in the state, there have been little efforts to make PIOs well-versed with it.
The SIC has written to the heads of departments that that there have been "deficiencies and weaknesses" in implementation of the Act that "deserve priority attention". Following which, the departments recently issued directives to their PIOs to be "well-versed" with the RTI Act 2009.
"It has been observed that the information under the RTI is not being provided timely to the RTI activists with the result they approach to the first appellate authority for providing of information under RTI Act 2009. In most of the cases, the PIOs are not attending the first appeal in the office of the first appellate authority personally and send their representatives for hearing," an order issued to departments reads.
Several departments have directed PIOs to get themselves "well-versed" with the RTI Act and produce the information to the RTI activists well in time.
"These instructions may be adhered in letter and spirit and non-compliance of the instructions shall be viewed seriously," several departments have issued orders.
An official of the General Administration Department said that directives were issued as SIC has expressed "unhappiness" over deficiencies in implementation of the RTI Act in the state.
"The departments have been told that lack of awareness among PIOs is leading to denial of information to applicants," the official said.
The SIC has also taken on departments for difficulties faced by the RTI applicants in depositing of fees and photocopy charges and in many cases the exact amount to be deposited for charges not communicated promptly by the PIOs.
"Non existence of special RTI calls in most government offices for providing assistance to the RTI applicants," the SIC has said.
Now the SIC has also been rendered headless.
As per Section 12 of the J&K Right to Information Act, the general superintendence, direction and management of the Information Commission vests with the Chief Information Commissioner and he is to be assisted by the two Information Commissioners.
However, Mohammad Ashraf Mir is the lone Commissioner of SIC.
On June 28, Khurshid A Ganai resigned as CIC and was subsequently appointed as Advisor to Governor NN Vohra after the imposition of Governor's Rule in the state.
The commission, which came into being in 2009 under the Right to Information Act, is an appellate authority where people can file their complaints if denied official information.
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