Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009 (J&K RTI Act 2009) designates various “Competent Authorities” under the provisions of section 2 (b) (i) (ii) (iii) of this act.
In case of Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Chief Justice has been designated as the competent authority. For J&K Legislative Council Chairman of the Council is the competent authority, and Speaker is the competent authority for J&K Legislative Assembly. For rest of the authorities constituted under J&K Constitution or Constitution of India, the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir is the designated competent authority.
Powers to make Rules by Competent Authorities:
Section 25 of J&K RTI Act 2009 gives powers to the competent authorities to make their own rules. The J&K Right to Information Act 2009 was enacted on March 20th 2009 and subsequently the Government notified the rules vide SRO 199 dated 29th April 2010. These rules were repealed vide SRO 279 dated 30th August 2012. The competent authorities like J&K High Court, Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly were following the rules formulated by the Government during 2010 and 2012. It was after a gap of more than six years that J&K High Court recently formulated its own rules vide its Notification number 42 dated: 24th April 2015.
Move welcomed by CHRI:
It encouraging on part of J&K High Court for notifying the Right to Information Rules, (J&K HC-RTI Rules). This will help the High Court in dealing with the procedures for seeking and obtaining information from the judiciary. Although the High Court could have formulated these rules within 120 days of the enactment of the J&K Right to Information Act, 2009, better late than never.
New Delhi based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has also appreciated the initiative taken by J&K High Court. CHRI has welcomed HC’s decision about the notification of additional fee rates at the lower benchmarks that have been set in the J&K RTI Rules notified by the J&K State Government in 2012. The provision of easy-to-use formats for seeking and obtaining information as well as making decisions by the designated authorities have also been welcomed.
CHRI’s Coordinator for Access to Information Programme Venkatesh Nayak says that the requirement of the first appellate authority of J&K High Court to give the Appellant a hearing before deciding a first appeal is a welcome step as it is in tune with the principle of natural justice. Such a progressive provision is missing in the J&K RTI Rules notified by the State Government.
CHRI has already send its detailed analysis to the Chief Justice of J&K High Court. They have sought CJ's intervention for some amendments in the High Court RTI rules formulated by them recently.
The documents have been authenticated and duly signed by experts in this field such as former Central Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah, and Director of CHRI Maja Daruwala. The recommendations for change are based on their knowledge about the functioning of RTI laws and Rules not only in India but also across the Commonwealth nations.
The J&K High Court RTI Rules have been notified by the Chief Justice as the competent authority under Section 25 read with Section 2(b) of the RTI Act. Section 2(b)(ii) makes it clear that the Hon’ble Chief Justice will be the ‘competent authority’ for the purpose of the J&K High Court. A plain reading of this provision indicates that the competent authority may make RTI Rules only for the J&K High Court.
With regard to the subordinate judiciary it is the Governor of the J&K who is the competent authority for the purpose of making Rules – given the plain meaning of the phrase – “in the case of other authorities established or constituted by or under the Constitution of India or the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir” as is provided in Section 2(b)(iii).
However, if the J&K High Court -RTI Rules, had been notified in consonance with Article 104(1) of the J&K Constitution, wherein the power of superintendence and control of the subordinate judiciary in the State is vested in this Hon’ble High Court, an amendment to that effect requires to be made in the Preamble of the J&K High Court RTI Rules to remove any confusion.
In addition to it the RTI rules notified by the J&K High Court must be translated into state's official language, Urdu, as well. This will be beneficial to a large population in J&K, who are well versed with urdu language.