A Call for Transparency

Moa Jamir

Gauhati Kohima Bench sets precedent

In a pioneering move, the Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench has become the first in Nagaland to launch an online Right to Information (RTI) portal, marking a significant stride towards transparency and efficiency. Justice Devashis Baruah, a Judge at the Gauhati HC and the ICT In-charge of the Kohima Bench officially inaugurated the portal on February 29 by symbolically filing the first online, paperless e-RTI application through the dedicated web portal.

This move aligns with Section 6 (1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, which mandates that information seekers have a statutory right to submit applications through electronic means. Until now, RTI applications could only be filed through physical means. The introduction of the online RTI portal seeks to enhance convenience for accessing information about the Gauhati High Court and its outlying Benches, highlighted in a press release by Ajongba Imchen, Registrar of Gauhati HC Kohima Bench.

The user-friendly web portal empowers Indian citizens to file their RTI applications and First Appeals online, facilitating payments for fees and copying charges through an online payment gateway, including options for Internet Banking or UPI transactions, it said. 

Accessing the online RTI portal is as simple as clicking on the dedicated “RTI” tab available on the official website of the Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench. Detailed guidelines for its usage are given on the portal.

Operating in an end-to-end paperless mode, the portal is set to be extended to all District Courts of Nagaland in the near future, the release informed, adding that this move is a testament to the Kohima Bench's commitment to leveraging technology for enhanced transparency and access to information in the realm of e-governance.

This is not the first instance of the Kohima Bench embracing technology to advance transparency and access to information. An assessment by The Morung Express in September last year, focusing on the digital initiatives of Nagaland State Government websites, found that the Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench website can be used as a benchmark for best practices in the State.

The website, accessible at a glance, fulfils all the necessary requirements for transparency, offering valuable resources, historical information, profiles, public notifications, and up-to-date disclosures. Key features of the website include a regularly updated Notice Board, a Recruitment Section providing the latest information and links to online applications, compliance with the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005, including Sou Motu disclosures with the latest RTI Manual for 2022-2023, live streaming of court proceedings on YouTube every working day, and a Case Status section with information available in the public domain.

This stands in stark contrast to numerous moribund government websites in Nagaland, which appear to merely fulfil specific directives rather than serving as endeavours to promote accountability, accessibility, and e-governance. In light of these commendable practices by the Kohima Bench, it is imperative for other State departments to follow suit. The seamless integration of technology in promoting transparency not only sets a precedent for best practices but also ensures that citizens can access information efficiently. While lauding Kohima Bench’s action, other government bodies should embrace digital initiatives and uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, and accessibility in the digital age.

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