“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Sahil hopes the improved RTI law ushers a new era of transparency

(Mr. Sahil Showkat, 24, was born in Badripora Naina Sangam, near Awantipora, in Pulwama district. He graduated from the Government Degree College in Anantnag, and his post graduation in Political Science from the University of Kashmir. He is currently a M. Phil. scholar in the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir.)

Must For Good Governance

The primary concern of the citizens in a good civil society is that their government must be fair and good. For this, it is essential that their systems and sub-systems of governance are efficient, economic, ethical and equitable. Besides, the governing process must also be just, reasonable, fair and citizen friendly. For all this, the administrative system must also be accountable and responsive besides promoting transparency and peoples’ participation. The test of good governance lies in the goals and objectives of government, in its policies and programmes, in the manner of their execution, in the general perception of the people about quality of functioning of various agencies, their attitude and behavior towards the people, their sincerity, honestly and commitment towards the public duties.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir passed the RTI, 2004 on 5 jan.2004 to secure right to information in favour of its citizens. However, the rules there under were published on 20 June 2005 after a lapse of about 18 months. The J and K RTI is based upon the repealed central freedom of information act 2002 which lacked proper assignment of responsibility to bureaucrat, proper appeals process against the denial of requests, direct penalty clause for offices who illegally with hold public information and proper notification in the gazette of India.

Nowadays various political and civil society organisations of the state have called for a public debate on the provisions of the JK RTI Act of 2008 vis-a-vis the Right to Information Act, 2005. The JK RTI 2005 under section 6 incorporates several exemptions for the refusal of information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, conduct of international relations, including information exchanged in confidence between the two sets of govt, public safety and order, detention and investigation of an offence or which may lead to an incitement to commit an offence, cabinet papers, minutes of records or divice including legal advice or recommendation made by an officer during the decision making process prior to the executive decision / policy formulation, a disclosure which may result in the breach of privilege of parliament or state legislature or contravention of a lawful order of a court, information supplied by a person under the guarantee of confidentially and when she / he has not consented to its disclosure.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2008 is a good move towards the building of governance in the state. But the condition is peaceful negotiation, consensus and also requires good attention of political parties to clauses that can help in safeguarding the life and property of the people, looking towards the present situation of the state in terms of need and importance of good governance. Lack of revenue records, misuse of govt. funds, disappearances etc. compels us to implement the RTI in an effective manner so that the common man can get benefit more and more. This can only happen when the citizen’s of Jammu and Kashmir can fully enjoy the right to information about the revenue records and other govt. departments and the people will exactly know what is going on and what is the rationale of the decisions taken by the govt. or it’s functionaries at different levels. The great democratizing power of information will give the people of the state all the chances to effect change and alleviate poverty in ways as they can like.

This is the age of information affluences, technology, with it’s capacity for storing, simplifying and communicating information with astonishing speed, has more than ever put information at the centre of development. Information is a global resource of unlimited potential for all. Govt. is a vast store house of this resource. The information kept by govt. holds the memory on the nation and provides a full portrait of it’ activities, performance and future plans. In fact information is a public good like air and drinking water. It belongs not to the state, to the govt of the day, but to the public.

The people have right to know every public Act, every thing is done in a public way, by their functionaries. The responsibility of officials to explain their act’s is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption, otherwise lack of information denies people the opportunities to develop their potential to the fullest and realize the full range of their human rights. Individual personality, political and social identity and economic capability are all shaped by the information that is available to each person and to the society at large.

So to conclude we can say drastic changes are needed in the J& K. RTI 2005 to make it more stringent to ensure the dawn of new era in our processes of governance and era of performance and efficiency, an era which will ensure the benefits of growth flow to all sections of our society, an area which will eliminate the corruption, an era which will bring the common man’s concern to the heart of all processes.