Level RTI: Jammu and Kashmir
The Jammu and Kasmir Right to Information Act 2009 was passed by the State Legislature and it received the assent of the Governor on 20 March 2009. This law replaces an earlier law called the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act passed by the State Legislature on 18 December 2003 and notified in the Government Gazette on 7 January 2004.The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has published the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Rules, 2009 on 20th July, 2009 .
Notably, due to the special constitutional position occupied by Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Right to Information Act 2005 is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. Civil society groups, activists and advocators of transparency and accountability had been advocating for the adoption of a progressive Information Access law in J&K. CHRI has worked closely with government and civil society organizations and activists in the campaign for enacting an Information Access Law in J&K.
Activities & Advocacy
On Feb 27 2010, Dr. Muzaffar Bhat was attacked while he and his colleagues had gone to Branwar in Budgam district to hold public education meetings on the J&K RTI Act. Some local political elements, wielding deadly weapons chased them upon which J&K police intervened, averting serious harm to the lives of these activists.
Following this, five of these RTI Activists have been lodged in Chadoora police station of Budgam on false charges of robbery, assault etc. They were arrested on March 12th 2010. It seems that the police is trying to implicate them in a false case. Here is CHRIís response to this incident.
The General Administration Department (GAD) of Jammu and Kashmir has sent out a circular (no.25/dated 05.06.2009) 'Implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009' introducing a template of the 'Information Handbook under the Right to Information Act' to facilitate and maintain uniformity of information of the organization that every public authority has to publish within 120 days from the commencement of the Act and disseminate through various means as provided under Section 4(b) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir tabled The Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Bill, 2009 (the Bill) in the J&K Legislative Assembly on 7th March 2009. The Bill contains provisions that are similar to The Right to Information Act, 2005 (Central RTI Act) enacted by Parliament. The Government has claimed that this Bill is intended to bring the erstwhile law governing peopleís access to information from public authorities in J&K, on par with the Central RTI Act.
The Government of J&K for taking this important step towards fulfilling an electoral promise made to the people of J&K. Before tabling the Bill in the J&K Assembly, the J&K Government advertised the draft Bill in the public domain inviting people to comment on its provisions. Civil society organisations in J&K and elsewhere in India and abroad welcomed this decision as it provided an opportunity for people to participate in the making of a seminal law that aims to transform the fundamental operating principle of Government from obsessive secrecy to compulsory openness. However a reading of the text of the Bill tabled in the J&K Assembly reveals that the Government has ignored almost all the important recommendations made by civil society organisations for strengthening the Bill further. Of the 29 recommendations submitted by CHRI to the Department of Law, only one minor change has been incorporated fully in the Preamble. The public consultation process has been reduced to mere eyewash. CHRI has outlined the major problems with the provisions of the Bill.
The J&K Government has drafted a Bill to replace the J&K Right to Information Act 2004 as amended in 2008. This Bill seeks to replace the old law in toto. The draft Bill is closely modeled on the provisions of the Central Right to Information Act enacted in 2005. The text of the Bill tabled in the J&K Assembly on 7th March 2009 indicates that hardly any recommendation made by civil society organisations has been incorporated in the Bill. The public consultation has been reduced to mere eyewash. CHRI has further made 28 recommendations based on the experience gathered regards the implementation of the Central RTI Act in other parts of India. These modifications, if incorporated into law, can secure peopleís right to information in a more effective manner in J&K.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir has prepared a revised Draft Bill on Right to Information Act to bring the State law at par with the Central Right to Information Act 2005. The Draft Bill will be posted on the website of the General Administartion Department for soliciting public opinion, after which the Cabinet will again discuss the draft. The Law Department will issue a notification in this regard to seek public opinion on the Draft Bill. (Source: Greater Kashmir, 20 February 2009)
The Government of Jammu and
Kashmir tabled a set of amendments to the Jammu
and Kashmir Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2007
on 31st August. The objective of the Bill is to bring the
state RTI Act passed by the legislature way back in 2003 at
par with the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), 2005 passed
by the Union Parliament. The state government pressed for
the passage of the Bill and the J&K Legislative Council gave
its approval to the amendments. The Bill is soon to be presented
to the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir for his assent. CHRI
has submitted an analysis
of the short comings of the J&K RTI Act and the Amendment
Bill to the Governor requesting him to withhold his assent
to the Bill. CHRI believes that the Amendments remain inadequate
because they do not effectively secure the fundamental right
to access information for citizens in Jammu and Kashmir. If
the Amendment Bill becomes law, citizens will have inferior
rights in matters relating to seeking and obtaining information
from the Government as compared to that enjoyed by citizens
in other parts of the country.An Urgent
Action Appeal has been sent to media,the Information Commissioners and civil society partners. ((11/09/07)
The State Government of Jammu
& Kashmir has decided to table the Jammu
& Kashmir Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2007
in the current session of the legislature. The Amendment Bill
proposes among other things to set up a State Information
Commission which will give decisions within a maximum of 60
days on the complaints and second appeals filed by citizens
who have been denied access to information. CHRI has prepared
and submission on the proposed amendments and submitted
it to the State Government and legislators. An urgent
action appeal is being circulated to urge the State Government
to refer the amendments to a Joint Select Committee of both
Houses of the State Legislatore for detailed discussions and
for holding widespread public consultation.
To update us on your RTI activities / share your RTI stories