Right to information denied

Ishfaq Ahmed

There has been poor implementation of RTI act according to Ishfaq Ahmed. There have been showdowns between government and state Information Commissioner.



Poor Implementation:

“When Right to Information was conceived and the Act was enacted, it was thought of a potent tool to ensure transparency and accountability in the governance. Though hailed by governments to check corruption and make way for good governance, the RTI and the poor implementation of RTI Act has proved to be a no hoper than success and on many occasions.  Since the enactment of the Act (J&K RTI Act 2009) from March 20, 2009, there have been more hurdles created than removed that not only limited its scope but also its functioning. Few years after it was implemented the then Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), not withstanding the claims of the government that it was helping the law to become a s success, summoned the then Chief Secretary and exacted government’s failure to make proactive disclosures that are guaranteed by the Act.”

“Showdowns between the government and the State Information Commission have been mostly in favor of the former, which is suggestive of bureaucratic immunity and failure of both SIC as well as the Act. As per the Act Section 4 (2) the public authorities are bound to provide much information suo motu so that public has minimum resort to the use of the Act to obtain information. There have been reports about designated PIOs (Public Information Officers) as not being aware of various important sections and clauses of the act, not to mention the lack of awareness of the public.  Despite repeated pleadings by CIC to make information public and available on internet, several departments grossly ignored the directions. Furthermore, there has been growing concern amidst public as several activists were denied information out rightly with vague interpretation of RTI rules being cited.”


 Resisting change:

“In J&K state, the legislation which was meant to restore transparency, particularly in bureaucracy, matured into J&K State Right to Information Act 2009, and has completed more than a decade. Despite that, the RTI still has many lacunas and is today looked as having lesser potential than first conceived. There are many reasons behind the failure of RTI in J&K and at the union level. In both cases, the first response of the system is that it resists change. In governance, if the bureaucracy has been sluggish or even inclined to discourage accountability, any law to reverse that trend will be repulsed than praised. If bureaucracy has been against the implementation of RTI, as has been seen since departments do not give information readily on one pretext or the other, the politicians also played spoilsport. For example when Congress government (UPA) was ruling, there was a strong demand from activists as well as central commission to bring political parties in the fold of RTI. All national parties including both Congress and BJP ganged up and killed the bill. People want to know about political funding.  if the BJP says it has such great record in bringing transparency, why does not it bring back the bill or why did it vote against it. In J&K, the RTI has faced different problems. The departments are not willing to cooperate. In many departments, the officials after a decade of the law still don’t know how to treat any enquiry or provide the information. People also do not know how to make the use of RTI to dig where some don’t want them. The commission needs to be de-linked from any kind of political interference and external control, including the assertion by the government. The government too has an obligation not to act as an impediment, rather be supportive so that RTI Act’s true purpose is realized.”


[Courtesy: daily Rising Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, October 16, 2019].

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