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RTI effective tool to ensure transparency in Govt institutions:CUK V-C

CUK Holds Interactive Workshop On JK RTI Act 2009

Srinagar—Central University of Kashmir (CUK) Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mehraj ud Din Mir Monday said the RTI Act has proved to be an effective weapon to ensure transparency in the government institutions across the country.

“The era of unwarranted delays in providing information to the masses about government functioning is over. After the Act was implemented, the government officials have no other way than to provide the information sought by the applicant within the stipulated time,” Prof. Mehraj ud Din Mir said while delivering a presidential address during an interactive workshop organised by the Department of Students Welfare, Central University Kashmir in association with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, J&K RTI Movement and Department of Law.   

He said that real democracy means peoples participation in the policy making and the RTI Act has the provisions for peoples involvement in analyzing the functioning of the government. The Vice-Chancellor further added that RTI is highly relevant for legal professionals to ascertain the facts so that they can deal with the case of their clients on merits.  

On this occasion, Prof. Mehraj ud Din Mir also announced setting up of an RTI clinic at the varsity to help and train the people about the procedures regarding seeking information from public authorities under the Act.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Chairman, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, who was also the first Chief Information Commissioner of country, in his keynote address said, the present Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 is one of the strongest in the country. However, he said the law is strong only to the extent it is used.

He expressed that the law is instrumental in making democracy a reality. “Having an elected government does not ensure democratic functioning. It comes from the peoples’ participation in governance,” he said adding the present government at the centre has come to power on the slogan of maximum governance minimum government and to make that a reality we need a law like RTI.

He said that in a study conducted by National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information in 2008, it was found that up to that year, most the of people used the law were actually from the government getting their grievances relating to their employment (transfer and pension) redressed. He said that it was also found that 40 per cent of the people using the law were illiterate. Mr. Wajahat Habibullah said in Jammu and Kashmir, the students are now taking part in the implementation of the RTI Act.  

Justice M.S Khan (Retd Judge), while addressing the gathering said, the J&K RTI Act, 2009 is based closely on Central RTI Act 2005 and like all legislations, it is intended to provide citizens a legal mechanism for obtaining government records. “It is one of the most prominent pieces of law which is a significant instrument of democracy and aims to uphold the transparency and accountability in the working of the public authorities substantially funded by the government,” he said, adding that one has the right to know even about the credentials of the candidate contesting elections from the respective constituencies.

Sub District Magistrate Srinagar, Dr. Syed Haneef Balkhi, while speaking on the occasion said  the government officials were fully complying with the RTI Act and were providing the information to those seeking it. “However, the officials face difficulties due to dearth of staff, which sometimes causes delay in providing the information sought,” he said.  Dr. Syed Hanief Balkhi also shared several experiences related to the RTI seekers.

Prof. Altaf Ahmad legal expert and Ex Professor, Sultan Sharief Ali Islamic University, Dar’us Salaam while addressing the gathering underscored the need of implementing the RTI Act in letter and spirit. “There are some practical difficulties in the implementation of the Act in the Jammu and Kashmir and these difficulties should be removed immediately,” he said. He further suggested to hold more awareness programmes about the RTI Act in the university.  

Dean Students Welfare, Dr. Fayaz A Nikka in his welcome address said the objective of holding the workshop is to sensitize the youth, particularly the students of the Central University of Kashmir (CUK) about the Right to Information Act, 2009. He said the RTI Act has made all the government functionaries across the country accountable to the masses, adding that the good governance is nothing but sense of accountability, rule of law and responsiveness. He said that RTI is a milestone in the history of the country because this enactment has empowered the masses. 

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