SRINAGAR, NOV 23: In a significant move towards enhancing transparency and efficiency, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is set to launch an online Right to Information (RTI) portal, aligning it with the model adopted by the Central Government.
Official sources said that Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta emphasised the development of this digital platform during discussions on the implementation of the RTI Act. The portal will streamline the filing of RTI applications through online mode, incorporating Aadhaar-based authentication for added security.
According to sources, Chief Secretary Mehta directed the Information Technology Department to ensure that the guidelines for using the online RTI portal mirror those established by the Government of India for its departments and ministries. The goal is to facilitate a seamless and standardized experience for applicants in the Union Territory.
In a bid to enhance the competence of Public Information Officers (PIOs) responsible for handling RTI requests, Chief Secretary Mehta mandated a three-day training programme before assuming their roles. The decision comes in response to periodic strictures from the Central Information Commission (CIC) against PIOs for inadequate handling of RTI applications.
“Directives have also been passed for the development of comprehensive Dos and Don’ts by all departments concerning information disclosure under the RTI Act. This move aligns with the transparency law enacted by the Parliament and aims to guide departments in responsibly sharing information with the public”.
Additionally, Administrative Secretaries have been urged to proactively disclose relevant information in the public interest on departmental websites. This “suo-moto” disclosure is seen as a crucial step toward achieving a higher level of transparency in governance in accordance with the RTI Act.
The Housing and Urban Development Department has received instructions to explore the possibility of disclosing building permissions on their website, aligning with the mandates of the RTI Act. Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act outlines the information that Public Authorities should disclose proactively, emphasizing transparency in government operations. As per Section 4(2) and Section 4(3) of the RTI Act, Public Authorities are encouraged to regularly provide information to the public through various means, including the Internet, reducing the need for citizens to invoke the RTI Act to obtain information. This move is part of an ongoing effort to foster a culture of openness and accessibility within the administrative framework of Jammu and Kashmir.