March 2, 2017
Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Seeking to make Kupwara a “model RTI” district, the District Administration has invited the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement (J&K RTIM) and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) to provide technical assistance to public authorities for implementing the J&K Right to Information Act, 2009.
Incidentally, J&K RTIM and CHRI are already working with stakeholders in Kulgam to make it a model RTI district in response to a similar invitation extended by Shri M Y Tarigami, Member of Legislative Assembly, Kulgam.
In his opening remarks at the one-day training workshop on the J&K RTI Act organised at Kupwara earlier today, Mr. Hafeez Ahmed Shah, Additional Deputy Commissioner admitted that the bureaucratic attitude of the public authorities was partly responsible for the inadequacies in the implementation of this people-empowering law. He also pointed out that some citizens and ‘activists’ in Kupwara were using the RTI Act to intimidate officers, which was unfortunately showing genuine RTI activists promoting the public interest, in poor light.
Mr. Shah called upon the more than 70 PIOs and appellate authorities attending the workshop, to not act as an impediment in giving effect to people right to know what the government was doing. He urged them to work in a sensitive manner to make RTI implementation a big success in the district. He also suggested that civil society activists work with the district administration to ensure the effective implementation of various developmental programmes and schemes through the constructive use of RTI.
Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Chairperson, J&K RTI Movement and Co-Convenor, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCRPI), explained the key provisions of the J&K RTI Act to the participants placing special emphasis on the requirement of proactive disclosure of information to the people. He pointed out that volunteers of the J&K RTIM have always endeavored to use RTI in a constructive manner.
Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, CHRI and Co-Convenor, NCPRI shared the latest developments in RTI related case law from the Supreme Court and various High Courts across the country while responding to the queries raised by PIOs about the challenges they faced in implementing the J&K RTI Act in letter and spirit.
The officers participating in the workshop recommended that initiatives be taken urgently to ensure that the latest developments in the case law on RTI are channelized to PIOs and appellate authorities regularly to enable them to deal with RTI applications and appeals effectively. They also recommended that an RTI Cell be established at the district level to screen all RTI applications in order to process them faster. Where information already supplied to an applicant under the Act was sought by other citizens it should be possible to furnish the same to them without delay. The RTI experts addressing the workshop recommended that the district administration expand its official website to upload all RTI applications and replies so that applicants seeking similar information may be directed to the website to access the information quickly. CHRI and J&K RTI Movement agreed to make formal submissions on these implementation issues to the J&K State Government, the J&K General Administration Department and the J&K State Information Commission.
The training workshop was organised by the district administration in collaboration with Jan Shikshan Sansthan (Anhad) Kupwara, J&K RTI Movement and CHRI.