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CIC to hear RTI applications from Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir from Friday

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Lt Governor, CIC discuss transfer of complaints & appeals pending with erstwhile J&K Information Commission

New Delhi/Jammu: The Central Information Commission will start hearing appeals and complaints of RTI applicants pertaining to Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from Friday, nearly nine months after the transparency provisions of the erstwhile state were revoked and the central act was enforced there, officials said on Thursday.

The commission is hearing appeals and complaints via video and audio links.

While the country had enacted the Right to Information Act in 2005, the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state had its own law, the Jammu and Kashmir RTI Act, 2009.

The Centre had bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — from October 31, 2019 after passing of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019 in August last year.

Consequently, the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009 and the Rules thereunder were repealed and the Right to Information Act 2005 and the Rules thereunder were enforced from October 31, 2019.

The Personnel Ministry had given an action plan to the Central Information Commission asking it to take over all the pending appeals and complaints pending before the Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission.

While states have their own Information Commissions, the matters pertaining to Union Territories are handled by the Central Information Commission, according to the RTI Act.

The commission will start hearing matters pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from Friday, Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka told PTI.

Julka also met Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh on Thursday, according to a government statement.

Applicants from Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh can file RTI applications from home and no one has to travel outside even for appeals to the CIC, Singh said.

This will usher in a new culture of “justice from home”, he said.

The applicants from the two union territories can file first appeal before the officers designated and can avail the facility of hearing from home for second appeal before the CIC, he said.

Moreover, people can file RTI applications anytime through the online mechanism, he said.

“Any citizen of India can now file RTI pertaining to matters related to J&K and Ladakh, which was reserved to only Citizens of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, before the Reorganisation Act of 2019,” he said.

The minister said till May 10, 2020, 111 second appeals and complaints (fresh cases) from the UT of Jammu and Kashmir have been registered in the CIC consequent to the Reorganisation Act, 2019.

“Training for CPIOs (central public information officers) and FAAs (first appellate authority) is being planned and registration/alignment of Public Authorities of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on RTI online portal of DoPT is also being taken up with DoPT,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor, Girish Chandra Murmu today interacted with Bimal Julka, Chief Information Commissioner through video conference and discussed about the transfer of pending complaints and appeals with erstwhile J&K Information Commission to the Central Information Commission, New Delhi.

D.P Sinha, Information Commissioner for UTs also joined the discussion, besides BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Farooq Ahmad Lone, Special Secretary to Government, General Administration Department (GAD); Achal Sethi, Secretary to Government, Law Department were also present on the occasion.

During the interaction, it was given out that from 15th May onwards, the CIC would start hearing the complaints and appeals from J&K and National Informatics Centres across J&K would host the Audio/Visual interactions in CIC proceedings. All the complainants and appellants in this matter could visit the NIC Centres of their respective districts for the proceedings.

A threadbare discussion was held on transfer of all the files, complaints and appeals pending with erstwhile J&K Information Commission to CIC, New Delhi and the Lt Governor assured the CIC that the same would reach the CIC office within a week.

Besides notifying all CPIOs of J&K, emphasis was also given on sensitizing the CPIOs/ PIOs and First Appellant Authorities, through Webinar, on Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 and RTI Rules 2012 notified by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT).

Chief Secretary informed the CIC that around 243 Second Appeals/ Complaints are pending in J&K which would be transferred to the CIC for disposal.

Meanwhile, the Lt Governor directed the officers concerned to update the websites and ensure voluntary disclosure of information as per the mandate of the RTI Act so as to minimize the scope of RTI applications and maintaining transparency in the working of Administration.

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