Earlier, the columnist had explained in The Leaflet how government admiral in Jammu and Kashmir accept been blank applications beneath the RTI Act.
In this additional piece, RAJA MUZAFFAR BHAT says that ironically, admiral in the civilian secretariat are adamantly abnegation to allotment advice beneath this law. This has become a trend amid accessible authorities anytime aback the abolishment of Article 370.
THE government claims that accessible account commitment has bigger anytime aback the abolishment of Article 370 and that accessible authorities accept become added accountable. Yet there are dozens of instances that prove the contrary; that admiral accept become added above and aloof to accessible grievances, abnormally aback it comes to RTI applications.
Take the case of Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, who lives in a alien apple in the Budgam commune of Jammu and Kashmir and belongs to the Below Poverty Line category. He has been denied advice beneath the RTI Act by the commune collector’s appointment and by the authoritative administration of the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (RD&PR) department.
On September 1, 2020, Lone filed an appliance afore the appointed Accessible Advice Administrator in the RD&PR administration at the civilian secretariat in Srinagar. He activated via Speedpost (receipt no. EE836403096IN) and absorbed a archetype of his BPL allowance card, which is additionally alleged the Antecedence Household or PH allowance card. He got no acknowledgment aural 30 days, so he filed the aboriginal address afore the appointed Aboriginal Appellate Authority (FAA) of the aforementioned administration on October 31. His address was additionally accomplished via Speedpost to Jammu, as by the end of October the civilian secretariat moves to Jammu.
Lone told The Leaflet that he does not apperceive the name or appellation of the PIO or FFA as the ambassador of the RD&PR Administration had no alive official website at the time he was advancing his application.
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Danish Yousuf, a masters apprentice in amusing assignment at Delhi University, approved to abetment Lone, but could alone acquisition the official website of the authoritative administration of RD&PR in Srinagar and Jammu. “Until recently, the authoritative administration had no official website. It launched its website alone afterwards activists and media criticism. Now, if there was no official website, on what base was the government claiming that a agenda interface had been created at the panchayat level?” Yousuf asks. “This violates breadth 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act, 2005, wherein accessible authorities are declared to accomplish a autonomous acknowledgment of information,” he says.
The new website has acquaint the RTI Rules, 2009 and 2012. However, the 2009 rules were repealed way aback in 2012 aback above arch abbot Omar Abdullah led the government in the bygone accompaniment of Jammu and Kashmir. The rules of 2012 are additionally no best in operation as they accompanying to Jammu and Kashmir’s RTI Act, 2009, which has additionally been repealed. In addition, the website alike now provides the name and acquaintance numbers of the PIO and abettor PIO, but there is no advice provided about the FAA.
The bygone J&K Accompaniment Advice Commission acclimated to actuate of RTI appeals in 60 to 120 canicule beneath the beforehand act, which was repealed afterwards Article 370 was abrogated. Now, bodies do not apperceive aback their appeals would be listed as the auctioning apparatus beneath the accepted RTI Act is not time-bound.
Around three-and-a-half months afterwards he filed his RTI application, on 17 December 2020, Lone accustomed a advice from the appointment of the RD&PR Department. It was blue-blooded “Rejection Order” and active by Dr Udham Dass, Agent Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, Civilian Secretariat, Jammu. He is the appointed PIO. The letter had been active on 8 October, but it accomplished Lone’s apple afterwards about 70 canicule via accustomed post.
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The ambit from Jammu to Budgam is 300 km, and it never takes over a anniversary for the accustomed column to awning this distance.
“I accept apprehensions that the letter was accomplished on December 10 or thereabouts, as the FAA too bootless to adjudge my appeal,” says Lone. He believes the PIO, to “play safe”, mentioned an incorrect date to adumbrate the department’s mismanagement, and thereafter acclimated the accustomed column to alter the absolute arrangement of events.
Mushtaq Ahmad Lone. Courtesy: Raja Muzaffar Bhat
This affair is embodied by the actuality that the brand and allowance on the envelope that agitated the letter to Lone’s apple from the appointment of the PIO mentions neither a date nor a number, whereas, in the accustomed course, dispatches from government offices absolutely backpack these details. Instead, there is alone a baby antecedent on the letter. “This acutely indicates that the administrator capital to adumbrate the exact date of celerity of this letter from his office, as he and the FAA had ashen about 110 canicule aback they did not acknowledge to my RTI appliance and aboriginal appeal,” Lone says.
Otherwise, the PIO would artlessly accept asked his appointment to accelerate the letter via acceleration post, as is done in RTI cases. This author, who has been consistently filing RTI applications for 15 years, has never got an RTI acknowledgment through an accustomed post.
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Perhaps the administrator does not apperceive that Lone is accepted in his breadth as an RTI apostle for the aftermost decade (despite actuality a academy dropout).
To abort affirmation is not alone a abuse of the RTI Act, 2005, but additionally a austere abomination beneath breadth 204 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Lone has taken up this amount with the Axial Advice Commission (CIC) area he filed his additional appeal, on December 18.
He does not apperceive aback his address would be listed as the address auctioning apparatus beneath the Act is not time-bound. It was time-bound beneath the repealed J&K RTI Act, 2009. The bygone J&K Accompaniment Advice Commission (JKSIC) acclimated to actuate of RTI appeals in 60 to 120 canicule beneath the beforehand Act, which was repealed afterwards Article 370 was abrogated.
The “Rejection Order” says Lone had not paid the RTI appliance fees and had not addressed his appliance to the PIO. Lone is, however, absolved from advantageous the Rs.10 appliance fees beneath the RTI Act, for he belongs to the BPL class (see pic 1). His appliance additionally said so: “I am adhering a archetype of BPL (PHH) allowance agenda with this appliance so I am exempted from advantageous RTI appliance fees,” says his appliance filed on September 1 (see pic 2).
“It seems the administrator is not accomplished with the RTI Act, 2005, and needs a training programme. I had additionally addressed my appliance to the appointed PIO,” Lone says. He has now beatific all the accordant abstracts to the CIC in New Delhi. Now he awaits the audition for his appeal, which he expects will booty a continued time.
“Before abolishment of Article 370, our appeals would get listed aural two months and aural three-four months we would get a final acumen beneath the old Act,” Lone says.
Ever aback the abrogation, the PIOs and FAAs accept been ambiguous information-seekers, abnormally those who are not well-off. Government admiral are demography disproportionate advantage of the actuality that the JKSIC has been shut bottomward and afflictive bodies like Lone on one affectation or another.
The advice Lone approved avalanche beneath Breadth 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act, 2005, and should accept been accessible on the official website of the J&K RD&PR Department.
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He alone seeks basal advice accompanying to sanitation and the accomplishing of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). This is a arrangement the axial government says has fabricated continued strides over the aftermost bristles or six years. Indeed, the arrangement has fabricated some achievements in catastrophe accessible defecation, but this convenance was never a claiming in J&K. It is decay administration that is a austere botheration for baby towns and villages in the Valley.
Lone, therefore, had approved advice on the accomplishing of SBM’s Gramin (rural) arm in some districts, including capacity of funds allocated for decay administration in villages.
The accompaniment government has acquaint the RTI Rules, 2009 and 2012 online. However, the 2009 rules were repealed in 2012, while the 2009 law itself has been repealed. The accepted website provides the name and acquaintance numbers of the PIO and abettor PIO, but no advice on the FAA.
Lone additionally wants a account of beneficiaries beneath the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) for two blocks of commune Budgam. This advice should accept been accessible on the official website of the J&K RD Administration or Budgam district’s official website. However, the commune Budgam’s official website is hardly anytime updated.
On January 19 this year, a appointment of accuracy activists including this columnist met the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar. We requested him to set up a ambit bank of the CIC in Srinagar and/or Jammu so that bodies like Lone can calmly book appeals and complaints beneath the RTI Act.
After a accommodating hearing, the LG assured that he would accomplish some of these issues a top priority. Soon after, on January 29, the government issued an official annular administering all authoritative secretaries, agent commissioners and active of departments to amend their official websites and advance online account delivery. The General Administration Administration (GAD) has approved a acquiescence address in this attention by February 18 (see pic 3).
Dozens of cases of abnegation of advice beneath the RTI Act, 2005, go disregarded and unheeded. The bearings is worse in the Union Territory of Ladakh. This columnist gets approved calls from afflicted citizens accusatory about non-responsive PIOs.
From the Block Development Appointment to the Civilian Secretariat, afflicted bodies hardly get any amends in Jammu and Kashmir. The accomplishing of the RTI Act by the college attorneys is additionally not appreciable. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, for example, took two months to adjudge my address over an RTI application. This too, was alone afterwards an address afore the Registrar General, who is the FAA. Ultimately, the appointed PIO accomplished a acknowledgment but it is cryptic. One can achievement that things ability advance in the advancing months, for the affair is in the ability of the LG.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.
(Raja Muzaffar Bhat is a Srinagar-based activist, columnist and absolute researcher. The angle are personal.)
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