The requested information about appeal mechanisms and orders on representations is not available on the web site of the Respondent, President Secretariat. The representative of the President Secretariat submitted before the Commission that the web site is in the process of upgradation. Once it is updated, all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Act, 2017 will be proactively published on the web site.
This Commission holds that once an Order is issued by the President of Pakistan on a representation filed by a citizen, or, a public body, or, a commercial entity, its disclosure cannot be withheld from any citizen under Section 6 (d) of the Act, 2017, nor, its proactive publication can be withheld on the web site under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act, 2017.
This Commission holds that right of access to information for one is right of access to information for all. If a record, in the case of instant Appeal, a final Order is to be made available to the parties of the case, the public has also the right of access to such an Order.
This Commission maintains that all appellate bodies and courts protect right to privacy of identifiable individuals as well as legitimate commercial interests of commercial entities in the final Orders. Therefore, the assertion of the Respondent that some of the final Orders are not published on the web site as these may cause harm to privacy/commercial interests does not hold water. In any case, the Act, 2017 envisages a situation wherein a document, which should be otherwise be made public but its parts may contain private information, or, information that may cause harm to legitimate commercial interests of an entity. In such an eventuality, the part containing private information, or, information likely to cause harm to legitimate commercial interests can be severed from the document, after recording reasons in writing for the same, as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017.
The Respondent maintained in the hearing that at times Orders on representations contain sensitive information about harassment related issues. This commission is cognizant of the sensitivities involved in such matters. However, it does not mean that there can be blanket exemption to such final Orders. All sensitive information can be withheld and blanked out and the rest of the Order should be made public.
This Commission also does not concur with the Respondent that some final Orders cannot be published on the ground that the either of the parties may take any legal action. The right of access to information of citizens cannot be denied on the possibility and assumption that a party may take legal action against the Order of the President of Pakistan.
As the Respondent, President Secretariat is in the process of developing its web site, it needs to keep in mind the observation of this commission in multiple orders issued against different public bodies. This Commission has observed the Web sites of federal public bodies contain generic information and not specific information as required under Section 5 of the Act.
This commission hopes that such an august office as the President of Pakistan will ensure implementation of Section 5 of the Act, 2017 in letter and spirit, setting example for all federal public bodies.
The Respondent, President Secretariat was directed to publish all final Orders on its web site, after severing/blanking out records, or, parts thereof and information which is likely to harm right to privacy of identifiable individuals while ensuring that reasons for such a severance/blanking out of records/information are recorded in writing. The compliance report to this effect be submitted before this commission within one month of the receipt of this Order.
The Respondent, President Secretariat was directed to take immediate steps to proactively share through the web site all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 and submit the compliance report to the commission in the Template for the Compliance Report-Proactive Disclosure of Information under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017’. This template is available under ‘Information Desk’ category at the web site of the commission www.rti.gov.pk. The compliance report be submitted to this commission within one month of the receipt of this Order.
The Respondent, President Secretariat was directed to ensure accessibility of the information proactively published on its web site under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 for all citizens, including the blind, low-vision, physically disabled, speech and hearing impaired and people with other disabilities and submit compliance report to this effect using ‘Web accessibility checklist’. This checklist is available under ‘Information Desk’ category at the web site of the commission www.rti.gov.pk. The compliance report be submitted to this commission at the earliest but not later than one month of the receipt of this Order.