The instant Appeal, yet again demonstrates lack of understanding on the part of public bodies about their obligations with regard to the implementation of the Act, 2017.In the instant Appeal, the Respondent has invoked time-barred clause of the Act, 2017 for not providing the requested information to the Appellant which should have been proactively made available on its web site, had the Respondent carried out its obligation of implementing Section 5 of the Act, 2017. In other words, the Appellant would not have needed to file request for information and the Appeal had the Respondent carried out its legal obligation.
The Respondent has also invoked Section 7 (g), privacy clause of the Act, 2017 for denying access to information to the Appellant.
This commission has observed that public officials have limited understanding about right to privacy when juxtaposed with the right of access to information held by public bodies. 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.
This commission holds that the access to the requested information in the instant Appeal is a matter of public importance. In fact, this commission issued a detailed Order in Appeal No. 942-03/21, Abdullah Rashed Waraich Vs. Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation which was upheld by the Honourable Islamabad High Court. In this Order, the commission held that information such as regional quota roster maintained by a public body, consolidated result of written test of the posts, attendance sheet of written tests, online applications submitted by candidates who were shortlisted for interview, educational certificates/degrees of the candidates who were shortlisted for interview, answer sheets of all candidates who were called for interview, attendance sheet of interviews, evaluation Proforma containing detail of academic records, marks obtained in written as well as in interviews by the candidates shortlisted for interview, duly signed by Departmental Selection Committee, recommendations of the Departmental Selection Committee regarding selection of candidates is a matter of public importance.