Ensure voluntary compliance


The vital aspects of the transparency law receive due attention of the Public Information Officers only after the Central Information Commission (CIC) either passes strictures against them or issue explicit orders for compliance.Most of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) in the departments of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory are not showing seriousness in ensuring voluntary compliance to the provisions of Right to Information Act vis-à-vis facilitating inspection of record and rendering assistance to the applicants in getting information, which otherwise is not readily available with them. The Central Right to Information Act, 2005 states: "The information accessible under this Act and which is held by or under the control of any public authority includes the right to inspection of work, documents and records". Moreover, dissemination of information has been described as making known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcast, internet or any other means including inspection of offices of any public authority. All this clearly indicates that Public Information Officers are supposed to facilitate the inspection of available record as sought by the applicant under the RTI Act on mutually agreed date and time if by any reason furnishing copies of the record sought by the applicant is not possible. Similarly, Sub-Section 3 of Section 6 of the RTI Act states: "Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, which is held by another public authority or the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority to which such applicant is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer".
Moreover, the Public Information Officer on receipt of a request under Section 6 of the Act shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 days either provide information on payment of prescribed fee or reject the request for any of the specified reasons. However, these provisions of the transparency law aimed at facilitating inspection of record and rendering assistance to the applicants in getting information are not being taken seriously by majority of the Public Information Officers in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of facilitating the inspection of record the PIOs simply try to dodge the applicants by giving lame excuses but when the applicants get orders from the Central Information Commission the PIOs immediately extend cooperation for inspection of record and CIC has passed numerous orders during the past few months expressing serious concern over lack of voluntary compliance to the provision vis-à-vis records inspection. The Government of J&K Union Territory must pass explicit directions to all the Public Information Officers for paying serious attention towards these vital provisions of the transparency law as the same will not only facilitate the information seekers but will also reduce the burden on the Central Information Commission.

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