In a huge victory for the cause of better disclosure and transparency, the Board of Directors (BoD) of Jammu & Kashmir Bank (J&K) decided to implement the RTI Act and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines last Saturday.
Calling this a step in the right direction, Chairman of the J&K RTI Foundation Dr. Irfan Banka in his statement shared, “RTI Activists and in fact whole Jammu and Kashmir is happy on the long pending demand towards transparency. We thank and appreciate the role of Governor and especially Chief Secretary in ensuring transparency and accountability in Jammu and Kashmir Bank by playing a key role in declaring JK Bank a public authority which led to the implementation of RTI Law in the Bank”
The decision to go ahead with the RTI Act came up during the first board meeting under the chairmanship of it’s current interim Chairman and Managing Director Rajesh Kumar Chibber who has decided to implement the act in it’s letter and spirit.
Speaking further on providing assistance to the government, Dr. Irfan Banka said, “Being a grooming institution of the state, we are ready to provide any kind of assistance to the Bank for implementation of RTI Law. Bank has the best source i.e. CSR to implement the RTI law and achieve public trust through transparency. It could be an example for other institutions of the state.”
While the RTI act came into existence in the valley in 2009, J&K Bank was still not under the ambit of the act even though the then Chief Information Commissioner G.R. Sofi had delivered a detailed judgement declaring Jammu and Kashmir Bank as a public authority.
The interesting thing to note is, when the State Administrative Council had declared J&K Bank as a Public authority, there was an atmosphere of panic and restlessness. Raja Muzaffar Bhat in the Greater Kashmir, a publication based out of Srinagar
writes that this stems from the belief that "the management of the bank especially the Board of Directors were of the opinion that RTI would hamper their business, and it would create an unnecessary invasion into the affairs of the bank."
While J&K Bank was a private sector bank, on 22 November 2018, the Government-led state Administrative Council (SAC) had approved the proposal for treating Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) and therefore by extension, it was applicable to fall under the RTI Act. However, they continued to defy the act even though currently the State Government owns 59% stake in the bank.
Dr. Irfan Banka in his statement did question the Governor of the state over his silence despite the bank being declared a public authority in November last year.