Central Information Commission (CIC) chief Wajahat Habibullah, who is waiting to head the Jammu and Kashmir information commission, has advised Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to move on with implementing Right To Information (RTI) in the state.
Habibullah, who is yet to be relieved of his duties at the centre, has urged Abdullah to appoint other information commissioners so that at least the commission can start functioning in insurgency ridden Jammu and Kashmir.
\"I have advised Chief Minister Abdullah to go ahead and appoint other information commissioners so that the Jammu and Kashmir information commission starts functioning,\" Habibullah told IANS.
Habibullah, who became the first chief of CIC in 2005, resigned from the post in October last year to head the State Information Commission (SIC) in Jammu and Kashmir following Abdullah\’s request for properly implementing the RTI Act passed by his government.
More than three months have passed since his resignation as the CIC, sent to President Pratibha Patil, but he has not been able to go as the government is yet to zero in on his successor.
\"Yes, I resigned in October. There was a meeting between the prime minister and leader of opposition (Lok Sabha) but nothing happened. Once I am relieved from my post here, I will join there,\" Habibullah said.
A member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) of the 1968 batch, Habibullah has served in Kashmir in several capacities.
He was divisional commissioner of nine districts in the state between 1991 and 1993. The assignment was abruptly terminated by a near fatal road accident while negotiating with militants occupying the Hazratbal shrine in Kashmir in October 1993.
In the absence of information commissioners, RTI appeals are piling up in Kashmir.
\"The RTI Act in my state is suffering as there is no information commission at the J&K information commission here. Hundreds of appeals are pending here due to non availability of information commissioners,\" Muzaffar Bhatt, a Srinagar-based RTI activist, told IANS.
\"At present, the commission has a secretary and some clerical staff only. One office of the commission is in Jammu and another is in Srinagar,\" Bhatt added.
Apart from setting up the RTI machinery in the state, Habibullah will reportedly also play a role in consolidating the dialogue process with Kashmiri separatists with whom he has a good equation.
The CIC is appointed by a committee which comprises the prime minister, leader of the opposition of the Lok Sabha and a cabinet minister. One such meeting took place last year between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party\’s L.K. Advani and Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily.
However, it remained inconclusive as Advani expressed reservations about the selection process of the new CIC chief. The decision was deferred after that.
Magsaysay award winner and prominent RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal along with others had also shot off letters to Manmohan Singh, Advani and Congress president Sonia Gandhi demanding a transparent, inclusive and participatory process for the CIC chief\’s selection.
The RTI Act 2005 specifies the composition of the selection committee but does not talk about advertising and shortlisting of information commissioners.
(Mayank Aggarwal can be contacted at email@example.com)
-Indo-Asian News Service
By Mayank Aggarwal