PIL seeks to plug loopholes in RTI Act implementation

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to government as well as Jammu and Kashmir Bank among other respondents in a petition seeking plugging of loopholes in the implementation of J&K Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Besides government through Chief Secretary and Chairman J&K Bank, a division bench of Justices Hasnain Massodi and Dhiraj Singh Thakur also issued the notice to Secretary State Information Commission and Registrar General of the High court.
The notice returnable within three weeks was issued by the bench while hearing a fresh Public Interest Litigation filed by advocate Firdous Ahmad Parray through his counsel advocate Mohammad Ashraf Wani.
Among other directions, the PIL seeks respondents to comply with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2009 in letter and spirit within a specific time period.
The Section 4, considered to be the sole of the Act, binds the government departments to voluntarily disclose information about their functioning.
“If the public authorities would have complied with the Section 4 of the Act, the information seeker wouldn’t be asked to file application for seeking information and waiting unless and until 30 days will be completed,” the petitioner said, underscoring that due to non-voluntary disclosure of information by public authorities a commoner is being tossed from pillar to post and the purpose of the Act could not be achieved.
In its annual report 2011-2012, the SIC, custodian of the Transparency Law, had also stressed the need for full implementation of Section 4 of the Act.
Regarding J&B bank, the petitioner said, it is the public authority within the meaning of the provisions of the RTI Act.
“As such it is duty of the Bank to comply with Section 4 of the Act and to take such steps to enhance better implementation of the provisions of the Act and also designate the public information officers,” the petitioner said.
In order to curb the menace of corruption and to bring transparency and accountability in the system, the petitioner said, the state legislature promulgated RTI Act.
“Under Section 4 of the Act (supra), it was obligatory upon every department to disclose information voluntarily within a period of 120 days from the enforcement of the Act (supra), March 20, 2009, the information shall be furnished by every government department, semi-government organization, public sector bank with more than 50 per cent government share, board or a corporation should proactively or voluntarily give you the information,” the petitioner said.
The information, petitioner said, must be digitized and put on the website of the department. However, the petitioner said, by not implementing Section 4 of the Act, the fundamental right enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution is being violated at “massive scale”.
In this regard, the petitioner seeks directions to every department, institution, organs and instrumentality of the state to create date base of its information and place it on their official websites.
The Registrar General of the High court should be directed to take steps to make the daily orders and judgments available on the official website so that orders are easily accessible to people, the petitioner demands.
The petitioner also seeks direction to each department to have a monitoring cell as well as constitute a committee from time to time for the dissemination of the information.
To SIC, the petitioner prays to be directed to take necessary steps for implementation of the RTI Act by conducting programmes such as workshops trainings, seminars and conferences.
Lastly, the petitioner also seeks Director Information, government broadcasting agencies to broadcast programme in order to make general public aware about the RTI.