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Central RTI body asks Kashmir activist to seek data on pleas from non-existent state panel

By Our Representative 

In a surprise revelation, the India’s top Right to Information (RTI) body, Central Information Commission (CIC), has stated it does not have data on the number of RTI applications and first appeals filed in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the past four years. The revelation comes following Irfan Banka, founder, J&K RTI Foundation, an advocacy group, sought details through an RTI plea.
The CIC suggested that Banka file an RTI request with the government in J&K to obtain the “desired information”. Normally, the data is kept by state information commissions, but no such department or state information commission exists for the Union territory, as the J&K RTI Act was repealed in 2019 when the Central RTI Act 2005 was introduced in for the region, said the advocacy group in a statement.
Criticising lack of transparency and accountability related to the RTI law, especially after J&K was made a Union territory and its own state information commission was dissolved, Banka said, the RTI Act has “weakened in the region" and that "some public information officers (PIOs) view it as useless.”
“The RTI Act of 2005 empowers citizens to access information held by public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability. The Act applies to all states and union territories of India. However", asserted Banka, his experience "raises questions about the effectiveness of the RTI Act in in the Union territory."
As a result of the lack of data, it is unclear how many RTI applications and appeals have been filed in Jammu and Kashmir since it was reorganized in 2019. This lack of information makes it difficult to hold public authorities accountable and undermines the very purpose of the RTI Act, the advocacy group noted.
Banka's concerns highlight the need for greater transparency and accountability in the RTI system in J&K. As citizens' right to information is an essential part of a functioning democracy, it is imperative that the government takes steps to ensure that the system is effective and transparent, the advocacy group added.

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