The State Information Commission has released an order (Complaint No. 50) on its website that details the cluelessness of some J&K Gov’t officials.

The Khadi & Village Industry Board (KVIB) was a respondent in the case, and Javed Anjum Mir (Dy. CEO, KVIB) and  Rashid Ahmad Qadri (Dy.CEO, KVIB, PIO) represented the agency.  The applicant/complainant is a lady from Kachgari Mohalla, Nowshera, Srinagar.

The original application was filed in October 2009 (1.5 years ago), well after the old J&K RTI Act of 2004 had been repealed and replaced with the J&K RTI Act of 2009 (effective 20 March 2009).  However, the applicant had apparently mistakenly invoked the old J&K RTI Act 2004, possibly because the old 2004 forms were available with her (speculation on our part). As an added complication, the applicant was simultaneously pursuing a court case against the KVIB, which apparently remains pending.

The KVIB received the application but refused to respond during this 1.5 year period, until the SIC stepped in.The hearing was held on 11 April at the SIC. As part of their response, the KVIB officials referred to an exemption clause in Section 6(3)(iii) of the old J&K RTI Act of 2004 that exempts any information that  “would prejudicially affect fair trial or adjudication of a pending case or the proceedings of any tribunal, public inquiry.“

This clause has been replaced in the 2009 Act by Section 8(b), which exempts any information: “expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or Tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court”. The improvement between the 2009 and 2004 clauses is obvious, and shows how pending court cases can no longer be used as excuses to deny information.

Furthermore, Section 28(2) of the J&K RTI Act 2009 expressly transferred all pending matters under the J&K RTI Act of 2004 to the new Act.  In any case, since the 2004 Act was not in operation when the RTI application was filed, the PIO had no authority to use it as the basis for his decisions.