People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 32

August 09, 200

Make RTI Act People Oriented, CPI(M) Asks J&K Govt


URGING the Jammu and Kashmir state government to simplify the procedural formalities in the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said this would help people in getting the desired information cheaply, timely and easily.

In a statement issued from Srinagar on August 3, CPI(M) state secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged the state government to make the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act (J&K RTI Act) people oriented by making certain insertions and deletions. He said simplifying the procedural formalities under the act was need of the hour.

Tarigami said the J&K RTI Act, in its present form, carries a few provisions which are contrary to that of the central act, thereby making it difficult for the information seekers to avail the benefits of the right to information.

Mentioning the exorbitant application fee under a rule of the J&K RTI Act, Tarigami said the fee of Rs 50 for filing an information request was five times more than what was stipulated by the central government and a majority of the state governments. He also suggested that below poverty line (BPL) applicants desirous of seeking information under the J&K RTI Act should be exempted from the application fee.

The CPI(M) state secretary said it was also astonishing that, under another rule of the act, an additional fee of Rs 10 was to be charged per page from the applicant for getting a copy or created page of information sought under the act.

Likewise, he said, charging Rs 75 and Rs 100 for getting a CD or floppy, respectively, containing the information requested under the act was also expensive and unaffordable for the common people. He said charging high rates for providing copies, CDs and floppies was not only expensive but is also discouraging the people from approaching the concerned authorities and thereby depriving the information seekers from their fundamental right to information.

Tarigami said under the act, there should be clear details as to who is a public authority as has been done in the Right to Information Acts of the central and other state governments.

He also suggested that there must be a proper procedure to select the information commissioners and public information officers on the pattern of the central and state services to bring more efficiency in disseminating information to the people of the state.

He said that for delegating powers of the Jammu and Kashmir state information commissioner to any officer for the purpose of conducting an enquiry relating to an appeal or complaint pending before it, the act needs to be amended through a piece of legislation. This is essential to ensure that the delegation of powers to a lower officer is not misused or does not result in a delay in providing information to the people.

He said the officers found delaying the dissemination of information to the seekers or misusing the authority must be made accountable. Also, there is the need to delete such rules and provisions of the act as are not suited to public interest and necessary insertions must be made in the act to make it easily accessible for the common people.

Tarigami suggested that the state government must seek legal opinion from proper quarters to bring the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Act to the par with the central Act so that the purpose of guaranteeing the right to information to the people of the state is achieved. (INN)