Public authority

Last year Chief Minister while addressing a conference at New Delhi wished to bring the political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act. The statement was welcomed but at the same time knowledgeable quarters accused him of dichotomy. According to them the Chief Minister amended the RTI rules and turned the State Information Commission (SIC) into a `lame duck’. The amendments evoked severe criticism not only from the RTI activists but also from the civil society and the political parties. The former Chief Information Commissioner of Central Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah and the incumbent state CIC G R Sufi also criticized the move. The civil society urged Omar to prove his sincerity by taking tangible measures like declaring his National Conference a public authority. This must be followed by furnishing information to the applicants who have approached him under the RTI Act seeking information about NC and its leadership. Pertinent to mention JK RTI Rules 2010 conferred vast powers on the State Information Commission (SIC). The SIC had powers to issue warrants and summons against the Chief Secretary of the state. But the situation changed after amendments. Now the SIC is a `toothless tiger’ like the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). Some of the powers under Section 44 of the Act that were withdrawn included making an annual roster for appearance of public authorities before the commission. It also empowered the SIC to decide who could represent the public authority before the commission. The rules had made it obligatory for various departments /organizations to include in its annual report the recommendations of the Commission. The provisions should have gone a long way in ensuring transparency and fairness. Bringing political parties under the ambit of the Act becomes all the more necessary when people have started expressing concern over dynastic rule, undemocratic practices and corruption within the political organizations. If people repose trust in political parties and cast votes in their favour, they have a right to know what is happening inside the `kitchen’ cabinets, how funds are raised and utilized and how the system (within the organizations) work. Politicians may not like it but why should people trust such people who conceal material facts about themselves and their respective organizations. People must know why a particular person or a particular family should be at the helm of affairs in an organization. Let Omar start the process. Others will be forced to follow suit.