Pardeep Singh Bali
Surprising it may sound but it is true that Jammu and Kashmir government is apparently facing peculiar kind of difficulty in appointing chief of the State Information Commission (SIC), for smooth functioning of J&K RTI Act 2009.
According to sources, the government takes time to appoint CIC for the reasons best known to them, but it seems that there is huge pressure from various sections, as everyone wants ‘yes-man’, so that misdeeds may not get exposed.
“This is very powerful post, which can take bold decision and can expose anyone, including politicians, therefore it is evident that government must be looking for someone with such credentials, who may either cannot be lured by money or who listens to the political dictums,” said sources, adding that the first CIC was also appointed after two years of enactment of this Act.
They said the Act came into force on March 20, 2009. As per the state RTI Act, the SIC comprises of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and two Information Commissioners.
The former CIC, GR Sufi, completed his term on February 29 this year while the post of one State Information Commissioner was already vacant.
“In absence of the CIC, the Commission isn’t be able to exercise administrative as well as financial powers to ensure its smooth day-to-day functioning,” said the sources.
As per Section 12 of the J&K Right to Information Act, the general superintendence, direction and management of the State Information Commission vests in the State Chief Information Commissioner and he is to be assisted by the two State Information Commissioners.
JK’s first Chief Information Commissioner GR Sufi had assumed office on March 1, 2011, and as per the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act he completed his five year tenure on February 29, 2016.
One Information Commissioner, Dr S K Sharma, had demitted the office on October 31, 2015, on completion of his tenure strictly as per the provisions of the Act.
Now, the three-member Commission is headless as PDP-BJP coalition government is not setting any process in motion to fill the post.
“Nothing can be said about how long this Commission will remain headless as the Act clearly states that Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor on the recommendations of a committee consisting of Chief Minister, who shall be Chairperson of the committee, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and a Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Chief Minister, as its Members,” said an RTI activist.
It is pertinent to mention here that during his tenure as CIC, G R Sufi issued some important orders like declaring J&K Bank a Public Authority. The order was challenged before J&K High Court. Sufi declared some private schools as public authorities, he directed all the IAS and KAS officers of J&K to make voluntary disclosure of their property statements. He issued orders for giving information about mass graves, custodial disappearances and other matters.