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CIC Chief Habibullah urges Omar to appoint information commissioners for Kashmir

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 mayank.a@ians.in)    

-Indo-Asian News Service

By Mayank Aggarwal

1 thought on “CIC Chief Habibullah urges Omar to appoint information commissioners for Kashmir

  1. Mr Habibullah Sir,

    Please read Sec 12 (2) of the Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009:

    (2) The State Information Commission shall consist of-
    (a) the State Chief Information Commissioner and
    (b) two State Information Commissioners

    What is the use of having a body without a head ?

    Fortunately, there is a Himachal Pradesh High Court Judgment precisely dealing with this issue, where it was ruled that the part stating “and” was obligatory and mandatory. You can read that judgment on http://www.rtiindia.info

    There is also a recent judgment of the Calcutta High Court (concerning Tata Motors Singur plant agreement), wherein the Calcutta HC has also ruled that the par regarding “and” is mandatory and obligatory. This is also available on http://www.rtiindia.info.

    Please also read Sec 12 (4)(a) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009:

    (a) The general superintendence direction and management of the
    affairs of the State Information Commission shall vest in the State Chief
    Information Commissioner who shall be assisted by the State
    Information Commissioners and may exercise all such powers and do
    all such acts and things which may be exercised or done by the State
    lnformation Commission autonomously without being subjected to
    directions by any other authority under the Act.

    How can the Commission function without any superintendence, direction and management – the powers for which are vested with, and only with, the State CIC ? Please read the judgment of the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench), where the powers of the State CIC have been interpreted.

    ==================

    Mr Bhatt,

    The situation is same all over India – in the CIC and all SIC’s – even more than 4 years after the availability of Information Commissioners !

    From personal experience, I can assure you, that it is better to suffer without Information Commissioners rather then with them !

    C J Karira

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