Srinagar: Former chief information commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah has said that if the state information commission continues to be headless it would erode public faith in the transparency that the Right to Information Act was supposed to foster.
In a letter to chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, Wajahat, who is currently heading New Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said that if the commission is not able to dispose of people’s grievances, “there is a danger that they might lose faith in the commission and in the Act”.
The commission, whose mandate is to foster transparency and curb corruption, is running without chief information commissioner and information commissioner for the past four months.
The commission is an appellate body, where RTI applicants can approach if denied information.
“Appeals and complaints are accumulating before the commission due to these vacancies which arose when the state was under governor rule, hampering the commission’s ability to dispose of complaints in a time bound manner,” said Wajahat.
The Act necessitates that a three-member committee comprising the chief minister, leader of Opposition and a cabinet minister only can fill the position. The committee’s recommends the suitable name to the governor.
“I urge you to direct the general administration department to start the process of identifying aspirants for filling up vacant positions. The GAD must be directed to advertise positions and invite applications to boost public confidence,” he said, adding “participatory process would reflect the government’s committeemen of selecting qualified and deserving candidates”.
He said the RTI rules of 2010 were replaced by shorter set of rules in during the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government, while suggesting the government to set a committee to re-examine those rules.
Also, he has suggested the government should incorporate RTI awareness among people by introducing it as a subject in schools and colleges in the state.
“It will assist in inclusion of youth in making governance in Jammu and Kashmir more democratic, responsive and accountable than before. It will be a strategic step to change the current mindset of undue secrecy and lack of adequate responsiveness towards people that has been so evident up to present at all levels,” Wajahat said.