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Order on Appeal No 1091-05/21 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Establishment Division

The appellant in the instant appeal has requested the following information from Establishment Division

  1. Minutes of the meeting of the Central Selection Board (CSB) held on 4th to 7th January 2021;
  2. List of the civil servants who were considered for promotion to the BS-20 but were either superseded or deferred by the CSB during its meeting held on 4th to 7th January 2021;
  3. Copies of ALL “PER Grading and Quantification Forms for Promotions to BS-20” [duly filled in, in accordance with the requirement of Civil Servants Promotion (BPS-18 to BPS-21) Rules, 2019), and as developed and presented to the CSB in its meeting held on 4th to 7th January 2021.
  4. Copies of ALL “Panel Performa For Central Selection Board For Promotions to BS-20 Posts” [duly filled in, in accordance with the requirement of Civil Servants Promotion (BPS-18 to BPS-21) Rules, 2019), as developed and presented to the CSB in its meeting held on 4th to 7th January 2021.

Despite multiple hearings the The Respondent neither provided the requested information nor produced the reasons recorded by the Ministry-in-Charge declaring the requested information as classified in terms of Section 7 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

The Appeal is allowed. Deputy Secretary (Review Board) / Public Information Officer, Establishment Division is directed to provide complete information to the Appellant, at the earliest but not later than 7 working days of the receipt of this Order.

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Order on Appeal No 1706-01/22 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan

The Act does not accord blanket exemption to any public institution. This commission has already held that Registrar office of Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan comes within the definition of public body under Section 2 (xi) (e) which is as under:
“Any court, tribunal, commission, or board under the Federal law;”.
In the absence of any judgement of any of the High Courts, or, of the Supreme Court which bars citizens from seeking information from the Registrar, Supreme Court, under the Right of Access to information Act on the grounds that it is tantamount to curbing independence of the judiciary, this commission is left with no option but to determine likelihood of any such eventuality.
The honourable Supreme Court as a public institution performs two kinds of functions i.e., a) judicial functions and b) administrative functions pertaining to procurements and recruitments, involving public funds, like any other public institution.
This commission is of the view that the exercise of constitutional and statutory right of citizens in matters of public importance through the Act is neither likely to, nor, designed to curtail independence of the superior judiciary. This commission also believes that exercise of constitutional right of access to information in matters of public importance through the Act cannot be equated with executive oversight of superior judiciary.
The categories of information to be proactively disclosed under Section 5 of the Act have no bearing on the independence of the judiciary. Similarly, the information to be provided to the applicants under Section 6 of the Act is also not in conflict with the independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, the Public Information Officer to be designated under the Act will receive applications and can turn down any request for information which is likely to impact independence of the judiciary, relying on the relevant exemption clauses of Section 7 and 16 of the Act.
This commission holds that only provisions of this Act can restrict disclosure of any information.
This commission maintains that the disclosure of the requested information is permissible under the provisions of the Act, 2017.
This commission maintains that the Respondent was legally bound to proactively publish the requested information about “Copies of relevant rules, regulations, orders and decisions which provide guidance/ direction about how the Supreme Court’s accounts should be audited”, on its web site as required under Section 5 of the Act, 2017.
Similarly, the Respondent was legally bound to proactively publish the requested information about “Audit reports of the Supreme Court’s accounts for the last five years including FY 2019.20. FY 2018-19, FY 2017-18, FY 2016-17, and FY 2015-16”, through its web site as required under Section 5 of the Act, 2017.
This commission also holds that the requested information about “Details of any fee, compensation or charges paid to audit firms for the conduct of audit of Supreme Court accounts for the last five years i.e., if the audits were conducted by private firms and no by the Auditor General of Pakistan””, is permissible under Section 6 (b) and (c) of the Act, 2017.

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Order on Appeal No 1388-10/21 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Ministry of Interior

This commission maintains that the requested certified copies of records pertaining to Correspondence, recommendations and decisions, if any, in relation to nay proposal/ summary that the Ministry has received /moved for the creation of posts of Cashier/ Accountant or any other staff with competence / skills for managing funds allocated to the police stations in Islamabad in the Annual Budget 2021-22 is public information and should have been provided to the Appellant, if available with the Respondent.

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Order on Application to Withdraw Order of the Commission issued in Appeal No 060-06/19

On August 10, 2021, the learned counsel for the Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Ch. Amir Rehman filed an Application before Pakistan Information Commission to withdraw its Order announced on July 12, 21.

The application brought to the fore following questions for the consideration of the commission:

  • Under what provisions of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, henceforth referred to as the “Act”, can this Commission review its own Order issued under Section 20 (e) of the Act?
  • Can this Commission review its own Order in absence of any express provision in the Act conferring powers to review its own Orders”?

The commission held that if the assertion is that the Commission’s order is illegal and without jurisdiction, a remedy is available in the form of a Constitutional Petition before the higher judicial forums, but the Commission is not authorized to create remedies that are not explicitly provided for within its constituent Act. Reference is made to 2019 PCRLJ 318 (Muhammad Lehrasif v. The State and another), in which the Honourable Peshawar High Court (Abbottabad Bench) clearly held, at paragraph 7: “Like an appeal or revision, the power to review judgment or order is a creation of statute. Unless this power has been specifically conferred upon a Court through an explicit provision of law, the court can’t review its order/judgment. The Court has no inherent power to review its judgment or order even if the same is based on incorrect appreciation of evidence qua law”. When such power is not granted even to the higher judicial forums, this Commission cannot overstep its bounds as laid out in the 2017 Act. In fact, in PLD 1970 Supreme Court 1 (Hussain Bakhsh v. Settlement Commissioner, Rawalpindi and others), the Honourbale Supreme Court held: “The right to claim review of any decision of a Court of law, like the right to appeal, is a substantive right and not a mere matter of procedure”. When the Commission has not been authorized to even review its own orders, recalling/rescinding the same would be blatantly ultra vires the 2017 Act.

The commission held that whereas the Respondent’s counsel has made reference to the General Clauses Act, the power to recall/rescind an order has not been provided for by the legislature in the 2017 Act. Therefore, to infer such power from the General Clauses Act for itself would amount to the Commission exceeding the confines of its authority, in clear violation of the intention of the legislature.

The commission disposed of the application maintaining that the request contained therein falls outside the scope of powers vested in this Commission under the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

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Order on Appeal No.060-06/19 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Supreme Court of Pakistan

This commission concurs with the argument of the Appellant that “Registrar Office letter is of administrative nature and does not make a convincing case for denying access to information to citizens of Pakistan in the light of logical reasoning or court judgments passed in the context of Article 19A of the Constitution or the Right of Access to Information Act 2017”.

Each public institution performs certain core functions. This commission holds that if citizens’ right of access to information in matters of public importance pertaining to superior judiciary is restricted on the grounds that it would impact its independence and core functions, the same grounds would be relevant in the case of all public institutions”.

 

This commission is of the view that the question of access to the requested information pertaining to the total sanctioned strength of staff members of Supreme Court of Pakistan, total vacancies in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against different pay-scales/ positions, number of staff members who are not regular but have been engaged on daily-wage basis or through short-term or long-term contracts against various positions/pay-scales, number and types of positions created anew since January 1, 2017, total number of female, persons with disabilities,  transgender persons working with Supreme Court of Pakistan against various positions/pay-scales and certified copy of the latest approved Service Rules of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is a matter of public importance. Furthermore, Section 5 of the Act pertaining to the proactive disclosure of information is also relevant in the instant appeal when juxtaposed with the requested information.

It is pertinent to mention here that this commission has maintained through its different Orders that the information, proactively published under Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, should be ‘accessible’ for all citizens, including the blind, low-vision, physically disabled, speech and hearing impaired and people with other disabilities.

 

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Appeal No 319-02/20 & Appeal No. 189-11/2019: Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Interior

Ministry of Interior was directed to provide requested list of lawyers and law firms and “fee paid to the members of the prosecution team and the relevant law firms (i.e. until December 01, 2019) that are/were engaged for the trial of former President General Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution”.  Ministries of Interior and Law and Justice were also directed to put contact details of Public Information Officers on their web sites and 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.


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Order on Appeal No 314-02/20 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs. Islamabad Model School for Boys I-8/1 and Federal Directorate of Education

Principal, Islamabad Model School for Boys I8-4 was directed to provide the requested information to the Appellant about total number of staff, teachers, number of subjects and classes, total budget, information about the school fund that is maintained through tees. contributions by students or other means, copies of rules, regulations or guidelines that allow and regulate collection of fee or contributions under various heads, copies of latest audit report of school fund i.e. If such an audit is carried out not later than 10 working days of the receipt of this Order.  Principal, Islamabad Model School for Boys I8-4  and Director General, Federal Directorate of Education were directed to notify Public Information Officers, (PIOs), under Section 9 of the Act, put the contact details of the PIOs on their web site and to take immediate steps to proactively share through the web sites 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.

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Order on Appeal No 317-02/20 Mukhtar Ahmed Vs Islamabad Model College for Girls F-8 1 and Federal Directorate of Education

Principal, Islamabad Model College for Girls F-8/1 was directed to provide the requested information to the Appellant about total number of staff, teachers, number of subjects and classes, total budget, information about the school fund that is maintained through tees. contributions by students or other means, copies of rules, regulations or guidelines that allow and regulate collection of fee or contributions under various heads, copies of latest audit report of school fund i.e. If such an audit is carried out not later than 10 working days of the receipt of this Order.  Principal, Islamabad Model College for Girls F-8/1 and Director General, Federal Directorate of Education were directed to notify Public Information Officers, (PIOs), under Section 9 of the Act, put the contact details of the PIOs on their web site and to take immediate steps to proactively share through the web sites 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.

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Order on Appeal No.313-06-2020 Mukhtar Ahmad Ali Vs Islamabad Model College for Boys, F-10/4, Islamabad

The reporting in the newspaper DAWN on 13.8.2020 has specifically highlighted the reforms initiative introduced to improve quality of education in the 423 schools and colleges in Islamabad under the control of the Federal Directorate of Education because the quality of education at these institutions has declined significantly in the last 20 years or so. This is sufficient for the citizens to raise the eyebrows and to ask for the information in the public interest invoking their fundamental right guaranteed in article 19.A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.The Commission directed the public body to share with the appellant the detail of number of classes, students, teaching and non-teaching staff and the detail of the budget documents and expenditure statements etc. of the institution to improve quality of education and maintaining transparency in its affairs.


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Order on Appeal No-318-02/20 Mukhtar Ahmed Ali Vs. Islamabad Model College for Boys, F-10/3

The Commission directed the Respondent to provide to the Appellant the information related to the schedule of the classes, staff of the college, the allocated and utilized budget, funds, audit reports and the guidelines of the institute.

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