This commission holds that it is evident from the scheme and structure of the Act that it applies retrospectively, especially from Sections 5, 6 and Section 16 (1) (k) of the Act. The proviso to Section 5 stipulates that if the information or record requested pertains to a period earlier than the year 2008, the same shall be published within a “reasonable time”.
The Respondent has submitted that minutes of the meetings are exempted from disclosure. This commission has maintained in its different detailed judgements that even plain reading of Section 7 (a) and (b) suggests that ‘noting on the files’ and ‘minutes of the meeting’ are given qualified and not absolute exclusion from disclosure. Exclusion of ‘noting on the file’ and ‘minutes of the meetings’ is subject to a final decision. As such, ‘noting on the file’ and ‘minutes of the meeting’ cannot be shared during the deliberative process. The disclosure of ‘minutes of meetings’ and ‘noting on the file’ during the deliberative process is protected to ensure that outside influence does not create hindrances in the deliberative process. However, once a public body has taken a final decision, as is the case in the instant appeal, noting on the files and minutes of the meetings cannot be treated as excluded records. ‘Noting on the file’ and ‘minutes of the meeting’, once final decision has been taken, reflect the quality of input by different officers which become basis for the final decision and citizens of this country have the right to know about the quality of input in the decision-making.
Public interest dictates that the certified copies of the records on the file of an employee of the public body cannot be withheld on the grounds of privacy as it this information is critical to determine the level of transparency and fairness adopted in the recruitment process. Therefore, none of the provisions of this Act, including Section 7 (g) can be attracted to withhold the disclosure of the requested information.
The personal/private information means CNIC details, residential addresses, telephone numbers, bank accounts/financial details and health conditions. This commission maintains that if the public interest warrants the disclosure of a report, though some of its part may contain information which should be exempted from disclosure on reasonable grounds, those parts can be severed and the rest should be made public as required under Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act.