Jammu: In a landmark judgement, the State Information Commission (SIC) has declared the Jammu and Kashmir Bank as a public authority, holding it liable to provide information under the Right to Information Act, 2009.
An order in this regard was passed on Tuesday by the full bench of the Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner G R Sufi and Information Commissioners Dr Sudesh Kumar and Nazir Ahmad.
"Thus having regard to the above discussion, the Commission declares the J&K Bank (Ltd) to be a `Public Authority` as defined in Section 2 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 fulfilling the conditions therein," the order said.
"The state has defacto control over the bank. With the government directions, it has started travelling to other areas of public services and is discharging all public functions like implementation of Common Services Centre (CSC) Scheme, which is an important part of National e-governance Programme (NEGP) of Government of India," the Commission noted.
The Commission said that State Legislature has established its authority over the bank through Committee on Public Enterprise and directed the bank authorities to appear before it and carry out the instructions and directions for ensuring speedy recovery of loans advanced by the Bank.
The Bank is considered to be one of first state banks and was "entrusted with the responsibilities" of implementing the CSC scheme of National e-governance Programme, apart from looking after "interest subvention" of Government of India also, the order said.
As per the order, the Bank was asked to designate First Appellate Authority, Public Information Officer, Assistant Public Information Officers and other officials required to provide information sought by state citizens under Section 5 of the RTI Act.
The Commission also directed the Bank to forward all complaints before the Commission to the concerned Public Information Officers to dispose them of in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 of the State Right to Information Act.
The Bank was also asked to take necessary steps for imparting training to the officers for the purpose and approach the Commission in case of any assistance required.
The Commission, however, turned down the request of complainants to impose penalty on the bank, noting that the bank had "reasonable belief" that it is not a `Public Authority`.
It also declined to give any instruction to the bank to provide compensation to the applicants.
The bank`s counsel had argued that the law can be misused and that banking institutions are based on the trust and confidence of depositors. The Commission, however, noted there were enough safeguards under the act to deal with such issues.
The Commission directed that its order be given effect within a period of one month from the date of its receipt.
The judgement was passed on the appeals filed by a group of lawyers, advocates and RTI activists.