Jammu and Kashmir was the first to enact the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2004. But seven years down the line and despite Rs 8.3 million being spent on the required infrastructure in the past year, the State Information Commission is yet to be set up. RTI activists in the state are wondering why there is so much delay in putting a system in place. The government has been promising that the chief information commisisoner and two information commissioners would be appointed soon, but so far nothing has been done and there is no plausible explanation for this, activists say.
“We want the government to set up the State Information Commission without any delay,” Abdul Gani Vakil, a senior Congress leader and legislator, said on Wednesday. He said the government should also constitute the “accountability commission”.
Raman Sharma, an activist working to set up the information commission, had filed an application to know how much money has been spent on the yet to be constituted panel. The reply he got was startling.
“The government has spent Rs 8.3 million on the offices and other infrastructure of the State Information Commission in the past one year,” Raman Sharma said. “This was in reply to my application,” he said in a statement circulated to media.
The state government was earlier hoping to appoint former chief information commissioner of India, Wajahat Habibullah, to the post. But it did not happen due to delay in acceptance of his resignation from the central post.
Wajahat, a 1968 IAS officer of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre who retired as secretary to the government of India, was also keen to join the post in the state.
Under the RTI Act of Jammu and Kashmir, the state is to have one chief information commissioner and two information commissioners.
The selection is to be made by the chief minister in consultation with the leader of opposition and one minister in the state government. But the political tussle between the two main political parties in the state has delayed the process.
“We had twice called the meeting for constitution of the State Information Commission, but Leader of Opposition Mehbooba Mufti failed to turn up. That’s what has delayed matters,” said a senior officer in the Omar Abdullah government.
Mehbooba Mufti, on the other hand, was out of the country when one such meeting was scheduled to be held in November, and earlier she was intimated just a day before the meeting was to be held, sources close to her said.
Official sources said the government, which has come under pressure from all quarters on the issue, is likely to hold a meeting to select the CIC and information commissioners on January 27.