Home Minister Amit Shah says J&K is Back to 'Normal' But Not Enough to Give Information Under RTI
While union home minister Amit Shah categorically stated in the Parliament that all is normal in Kashmir, information that comes under the mandatory Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, pertaining to the ban on mobile and internet services has been denied.
 
Jammu-based RTI activist Raman Sharma made an requisition online on 7 December 2019, to the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) seeking details of the name and designation of the authority or the officer of the J&K government or the Union government on whose instructions, directions or orders the mobile internet services are barred and suspended by BSNL in J&K. He also requested a certified copy for the same.
 
The central public information officer (CPIO) of BSNL, replied that “the information is exempt from disclosure as per clause no 8 (1) chapter (II) under RTI Act 2005.” The reply of rejection was given to Mr Sharma when he had earlier filed an RTI application on 4 August 2019, on the same lines.
 
He states, “the rejection order signed by the DGM (CM) of BSNL, J&K Circle, states that, ‘the information falls under section 8-1 of the Right to Information Act 2005 and cannot be provided’. However the public information officer (PIO) has provided a gazette notification issued by the Union government dated 7 August 2017, which reads that under section 7 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, the Union government may make rules for temporary suspension of telecom services (public emergency or public safety).”  
 
It may be noted that, Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009 was scrapped after the abrogation of Article 370 and the Central Right to Information Act 2005 in these three Union territories were implemented under the J&K Reorganisation Act. 
 
RTI activists made an appeal to the department of personnel and training (DoPT), the nodal ministry of the government of India for proper implementation of the RTI Act,  to extend facilities for residents of J&K and Ladakh UTs to enable them to file online RTI applications with their public authorities.
 
This campaign was steered by Raman Sharma, Dewaker Sharma, Deepak Sharma, Hunar Gupta, all advocates from J&K High Court, and Munish Sharma, founder of Vishwas Trust and Karan Parasher from the law department of Jammu. Their appeal was accepted and that is how activists in these three regions have begun filing RTI applications, online.
 
Before him, RTI research scholar Venkatesh Nayak had filed an application three weeks after the Central government successfully moved Parliament to take away the special protection given to J&K under the Constitution of India.
 
On 30 August 2019, Mr Nayak sought the following information from the home ministry:
 
  • A clear photocopy of any order(s)/direction(s)/instruction(s) issued for suspending internet and telecom services, in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019;

 

  • Clear photocopy of any order(s)/direction(s)/instruction(s) issued for suspending radio broadcasts and satellite television services in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019;

 

  • A clear photocopy of any order(s)/direction(s)/instruction(s)/advisory(ies) issued requiring the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to leave Jammu and Kashmir in 2019;

 

  • A clear photocopy of any order(s)/direction(s)/instruction(s)/advisory(ies) issued requiring the departure of tourists from Jammu and Kashmir in 2019;

 

  • A clear photocopy of any order(s)/direction(s)/instruction(s) issued in July-August 2019 for detaining or arresting leaders and members of all political parties currently active in Jammu and Kashmir;

 

  • The names of political leaders and members of political parties belonging to Jammu and Kashmir currently under detention or being held in police or judicial custody along with the exact geographical address of the places of their lodgement as on date; 

 

  • The title of the law, rule or regulation along with the text of the relevant provision under which such political leaders and members of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir who are placed under detention or being held in police or judicial custody as on date;

 

  • Names of Right to Information (RTI) activists in Jammu and Kashmir who have been placed under detention or are being held in police or judicial custody and their village/town/city of ordinary residence, along with the exact geographical address of the places of their lodgement as on date;

 

  • The title of the law, rule or regulation along with the text of the relevant provision under which such RTI activists in Jammu and Kashmir have been placed under detention or who are being held in police or judicial custody as on the date of this RTI application; 

 

  • The names of other social activists in Jammu and Kashmir currently who have been held under detention or are being held in police or judicial custody and their village/ town/city of ordinary residence, along with the exact geographical address of the places of their lodgement as on date; and;

 

  • The title of the law, rule or regulation along with the text of the relevant provision under which such social activists in Jammu and Kashmir have been placed under detention or who are being held in police or judicial custody as on date."
 
Mr Nayak says, “the CPIOs in the ministry of home affairs (MHA) seems to have played soccer with the RTI application for a few weeks, moving it from desk to desk within the J&K division of the ministry. Both CPIOs eventually replied that they did not have any of the information sought in my RTI application. The second CPIO went a couple of steps further ahead to tell me that he could not transfer the RTI application to J&K as it was not covered by the Central RTI Act.’’
 
So, there you go. Will this be the New Normal?
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Comments
shadi katyal
2 years ago
Where is the democracy and if by removing 379,Kashmir which is part of India and her citizens re denied equal rights and now RTI being denied . Would the world look it as a democracy or dictatorship.
Pakistan is even spreading rumors that citizens are not allowed to bury their dead due to curfew and military occupation etc.
How long these citizens are going to be treated as enemy .
Why is RI being refuserd and if things are normal why such objection
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