The private information about identifiable individuals can be severed/blanked out while sharing the remaining part(s) of public records. Furthermore, records pertaining to elections observations such as checklists devised for elections observations are based on internationally accepted standards of election observation. The Respondent, TDEA, conducts observation of elections through FAFEN and citizens have the right to know the content of the checklists i.e., observations recorded by observers thereof, especially once the Respondent has issued the final election report as is the case in the instant Appeal.
The commission does not concur with the stance of the Respondent that “The PVT Forms are generated using the Respondent’s own resources and expertise and belong solely to the Respondent as a proprietary right. The observations contained in the PVT Forms are private/raw data belonging to the Respondent”.
This commission maintains that any record available with any public body does not ‘belong’ to it; the public body is not the owner but the custodian of such a record, owners are the citizens of Pakistan.
PVT forms contain observations of certain number of polling stations based on actual data/facts which are used to project results for the entire constituency. As such, citizens have the right to know the content of PVT forms to determine level of qualitative input provided by the observers and contained thereof, especially once the Respondent, TDEA-FAFEN has cleaned the data to remove errors and launched the election observation report.
It is important to note that privacy/personal information is understood to be, broadly speaking, information/data pertaining to access control (username and/or password), financial information such as bank account, credit card, debit card, or other payment instruments, and, passports, biometric data, and physical, psychological, and mental health conditions, medical records, and any detail pertaining to an individual’s ethnicity, religious beliefs etc.
The Act, 2017 envisages a situation wherein a document, which should be otherwise be made public but its parts may contain private information. In such an eventuality, the part containing private information can be severed from the document as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017 and the rest should be made public.