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PSC disrespecting RTI !
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat8/23/2018 10:42:43 PM
State Public Service Commission (PSC) continues to violate Right to Information Act (RTI) in-spite of the fact that State Information Commission (SIC) has been directing it to follow the law in letter and spirit. I am not able to understand why PSC gives more weightage to its Standing Orders which contradict with the basic essence of Right to Information Act ? Public Information Officer (PIO) of JKPSC has once again denied to provide me the Xerox copies of answer sheets (OMR sheets) some months back along with the answer key of Combined Competitive Exams (preliminary examination). Earlier State Information Commission (SIC) in its several orders had directed the PSC to provide similar kind of information and during the hearing , the PIO as well as First Appellate Authority (FAA) ie Secretary and Controller examinations did not even utter a word before the Information Commission and agree to follow its order. But when a new RTI is filed to seek similar information , the PIO as well as FAA raise useless queries again and again .
Case Study
J&K RTI Movement on behalf of aggrieved civil service aspirants filed an application under J&K RTI Act 2009 before J&K Public Service Commission (SIC) last year . As there was no response, from the PIO ,we filed 1st appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA) ie Controller of Examination. The controller heard the appeal where this author was personally present. Ironically the PIO against whom I had filed the appeal remained absent during hearing of 1st appeal . I was told he had gone to SIC for some case hearing. I asked First Appellate Authority-FAA (Controller examination) why I was not intimated about the same ? I pleaded before the Controller (FAA) that he should recommend the case of legal misconduct to State Information Commission (SIC) as mandated under J&K RTI Act 2009, but to my utter shock all these details were not at all recorded and the order issued by FAA was bad in law. Vide his order dated: 18.09.2017 the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said "it was made clear to the appellant that the information sought cannot be provided as per precedence". But I was hardly told all this during the hearing. Even if I was told all this , why FAA who is a quasi judicial authority used a word called Precedence in his order ? Is legislature such a weak institution than PSC's precedence ? After almost 2 months I was once again shocked when I got a reply from PIO, which otherwise should have come to me before the first appeal was heard. The PIO's letter No: PSC/Exam/RTI/73/2017 Dated 26.10.2017 was received by me on 17.11.2017. The letter from PIO of J&K PSC reads as :
"Refer your RTI application under J&K RTI Act 2009 where under you have sought information of Combined Competitive (Preliminary) examination 2016. In this connection it is intimated that as per the standing orders of the Commission , the OMR sheets cannot be displayed till he selection process is completed and recommendation is communicated to the intending department"
Why PIO responded to my RTI application , when an order was already passed by the FAA ? Why he used word Standing Orders ? Is law supreme or standing orders, I ask Public Service Commission (PSC).
Tailpiece
I know both Public Information Officer (PIO) and First Appellate Authority -FAA (Controller or Secretary) of PSC are Government employees and have to obey the policies of the Commission (PSC) where they are posted . Being guardians of RTI Act, they should know that no standing order or precedence can be compared with Law ? Recently they once again denied similar information to an aggrieved namely Savita Devi R/O Gumpul Domana Jammu. The case was decided recently by State Information Commissioner M A Mir with the direction to PSC to reveal information. I am not able to understand why PSC again and again denies information to aggrieved I nspite of the fat that SIC has made it clear to reveal the details about OMR sheets etc in its several orders. RTI law already makes it clear that Right to Information Act overrides all the laws which deny sharing of information. Section 19 of the J&K RTI Act 2009 says that this law shall have the effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the State Official Secrets Act and any other law for the time being in force or any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the act (RTI Act) . This legal point makes it ample clear that RTI Act has an overriding effect on laws which counter it. Even a layman knows standing orders or precedence of PSC has no legal standing before the law. Not only overriding effect of RTI Act , the RTI legislation has given such a great power to citizens that information which can be sought by MPs or MLAs can be obtained by citizens as well. J&K RTI Act 2009 reads " Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the parliament or the state legislature cannot be denied to any person" . Will PSC deny to provide copies of OMR sheets and answer keys to MP's or MLAs when the same is sought by them ? PSC has to become transparent now , it should proactively scan and upload all the OMR sheets plus answer key on it official website on the very next day of any examination.
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