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Order on Appeal No 2015-08/22 Muhammad Akram Usman Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission has already settled the identical matter in Appeal No. 2102-08/2022, In the case of Atif Chaudhary Vs Election Commission of Pakistan and held that searchable electoral list on a UBS can be provided to an Appellant under Section 79 (3) of the Elections Act, 2017 which is as under:

“79. Supply of final electoral rolls. — (1) The Commission shall provide the Returning Officer for each constituency with copies of final electoral rolls for all the electoral areas within that constituency.

(2) The Returning Officer shall provide the Presiding Officer of each polling station with copies of the final electoral rolls containing the names of the voters entitled to vote at that polling station.

(3) On the application of a candidate or his election agent, the District Election Commissioner or any officer authorized in this behalf by the Commission shall provide to a candidate or an election agent a hard and searchable soft copy on universal serial bus (USB) in portable document format (PDF) or any other tamper-proof format of the final electoral roll with photographs of the voters and shall ensure that the copy is the same as provided to the Returning Officer and Presiding Officers”.

This commission notes that Section 79 of the Elections Act 2017aims at ensuring free, fair and transparent conduct of electoral process by providing election agents of the candidates soft as well as hard copies of electoral roles containing names, addresses and photograph of the voters of the constituency.

This commission also holds that the disclosure of photographs of voters even to the extent of candidate, or the agent of the candidate is tantamount to the invasion of privacy of identifiable individuals, hence hit by Section 7 (g) of the Act, 2017.

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Order on Appeal No 2108-08/22 Atif Chaudhary Vs. Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission also holds that it is reasonable to assume that the information technology/software used by the Respondent also keeps track of voters of a given constituency.
This commission also holds that as requested information pertains to the functions of the officials involved in the maintenance of electoral rolls for the conduct of such sensitive a task as the conduct of free, fair and transparent lections, no items of the requested information is hit by any of the exemption clauses of the Act, 2017, including its Section 7 (g).
This commission maintains that the citizens of Pakistan have the right to know the names of officials involved in the maintenance of electoral rolls, as at times, even slightest change can impact the entire result of a constituency. Such a disclosure would help bridge trust-deficit between voters and the Respondent, Election Commission of Pakistan in the conduct of electoral process as such a disclosure would assure the citizens that voter movement in electoral rolls is not carried out by relevant officials in an arbitrary manner but voters’ movement is based on facts and under relevant Rules/Regulations.

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Order on Appeal No 2102-08/22 Atif Chaudhary Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission notes that Section 79 of the Elections Act 2017aims at ensuring free, fair and transparent conduct of electoral process by providing election agents of the candidates soft as well as hard copies of electoral roles containing names, addresses and photograph of the voters of the constituency.

This commission also holds that the disclosure of photographs of voters even to the extent of candidate, or the agent of the candidate is tantamount to the invasion of privacy of identifiable individuals, hence hit by Section 7 (g) of the Act, 2017.

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Order on Appeal No. 2116-08/2022 Sofia Siddiqui Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

The appellant being a citizen of Pakistan and an eligible voter has desired the information pertaining to the source documents that were used to initiate the transfer of her vote and a system generated report / screenshots showing the complete transfer history of her vote including the date(s), operator(s) name who did the transfer and the name and designation of all approvers who approved the transfer with reference to Election Act 2017 and rules made there under. The appellant has demanded the said information invoking her right under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 and Article 19A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.

The Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record detailed in para 1 of this order, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1961-06/22 Rubeena Shaheen Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission holds that as the election agents have the right of access to information about the names, addresses and photographs of the voters of the constituency residing in the country to ensure transparent conduct of electoral process, the election agents also have the right of access to names, addresses and photographs of NICOP holders’ voters   of the constituency.

The Act, 2017 takes precedence over all other laws with regard to what information is to be shared and how information is to be made public.

In the instant Appeal, the Appellant has described his preferred mode of access to information which is supported by Rule 4 (1) (b) of the Right of Access to Information Rules, 2019 which is as under:

 

“The form in which the applicant needs access to information, for such as photocopy, CD, video or audio clip”.

So far as the cost of CD, diskette, floppy, cassette, video or any other electronic device containing information is concerned, the Schedule of Costs, notified by Pakistan Information Commission In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 27 (b)of the Act 2017 states that public bodies shall only charge the actual cost of such a device, as determined on the basis of official procurement record. However, no cost is to be charged if the applicant provides his or her own device and requires only an electronic copy of the              information.

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Order on Appeal No. 2041-07-06/2022 Azra Ahmad Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

While dealing with the matters related to information and record sought by the citizens under the Act 2017, the public bodies are under obligation to respond the applications as mandated in the Act. In the case in hand the respondent has not acknowledged the application, information is not provided to the applicant in the stipulated time frame and the notices of the Commission are ignored. The reply is not submitted and the hearing before the Commission was not represented by the public body. It is presumed that the respondent public body is willfully avoiding the proceedings before the Commission and that the public body has nothing in the sleeves to submit in the defence. In such like circumstances the Commission is left with no option but to decide the appeal ex parte after going through the file in light of the Act.

The Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record detailed in para 1 of this order, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 1869-04/22 Zahid ur Rehman Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission has held through its different Orders that merit list, interview marks allotted to the candidates, copies of the educational certificates of successful candidates, appointment letters and the copies of domiciles are public documents and their disclosure is permissible under the provisions of the Act, 2017.
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.
This commission holds that the disclosure of the requested information would shed light on the level of transparency adopted in the entire recruitment process and hence help achieve stated objectives of the Act enunciated in its Preamble which are as under:

a) Making government more accountable to citizens’;
a. Greater level of participation of citizens in the affairs of the government’;
b. ‘Reducing corruption and inefficiency’;
c. Promoting sound economic growth’; and
d. Promoting good governance and respect for human rights.

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Order on Appeal No 1394-10/21 Zahid Gishkori Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

This commission maintains that the disclosure of the requested information about functions of the Respondent, ECP and expenditures incurred in performing these functions is warranted by both the letter as well as the spirit of the Act, 2017.

This Commission has observed that information of public importance mentioned in Section 5 of the Act is not being published through the web site of federal public bodies, including the Respondent, ECP.  In fact, the Web sites of federal public bodies contain generic information and not specific information as required under Section 5 of the Act. This is despite the fact that Principal Officer of each public body was required to ensure proactive disclosure of information through web site within 6 months of the commencement of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

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Order on Appeal No. 2017-06/2022 Salman Shabir Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

The appellant being a citizen of Pakistanis holding computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) / National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), registration document issued to the eligible citizens of Pakistan living abroad. Likewise his brother and brother’s wife. All showing the same residential address on their identity cards but the centres allocated for casting of votes are different for all the three. In this backdrop the appellant has raised query for the reason as to why his vote is at a different location than his brother and brother’s wife, despite having the same address on their ID cards, whether it is automated or manual process and how long does it take for updating address on CNIC to reflect in the electoral rolls system and whether the process system is capable to identify and rectify such discrepancies in the system/process without relying on citizens to report. In this regard the appellant is looking for the information and record applying thereto i.e. complete audit trail of the movement of his vote in the system along with the documents that triggered the move if any and the details of operators/approvers in the system of the move. The appellant has demanded the said information invoking his rights under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 read with Article 19A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.

The  Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to furnish the appellant all the requested information and record, forthwith, but in any case not later than seven days of the receipt of this order.

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Order on Appeal No 309-02/20 Waseem Elahi Vs Election Commission of Pakistan

Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan, (ECP) was directed to provide the requested information to the Appellant about Number of citizens who applied/requested for cancellation/deletion of their votes from voter list in year 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 to date; whether Election Commission processed cancellation / deletion of vote(s) on the specific request of citizen(s) in these years; list of  citizens who preferred cancellation / deletion of vote from voter list with brief cause of their request; If someone request cancellation / deletion of vote to Election Commission then whether his data will appear if he send SMS at 8300 and whether Election Commission has devised rights & duties for voters and public representatives, If yes, provide copies.

Secretary, ECP was directed to ensure that any information of personal nature like health condition, financial details, personal communication, CNIC details, phone numbers and residential addresses of citizens is not made public while implementing directions of the commission in paras 17 and 18 of this Order.

Secretary, ECP was directed to notify Public Information Officer, (PIO), under Section 9 of the Act, put the notification to this effect on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act, put name, designation and contact details of the PIO on its web site as required under Section 5 (1) (h) of the Act and submit compliance report to the commission within 10 working days of the receipt of this order.

Secretary, ECP was also 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 by 03/12/2020.

Secretary, ECP was also 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 by 03/12/2020.

The commission observed that it is only through this Act that the information proactively published under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 is required, as interpreted through various judgements of the commission, has to be ‘accessible’ for all citizens, including the blind, low-vision, physically disabled, speech and hearing impaired and people with other disabilities. This commission has been ensuring through its Orders that the public bodies incorporate of web accessibility standards in the design of their web sites.

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