Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2147-08/22 Malik Umar Vs President Secretariat

The requested information about appeal mechanisms and orders on representations is not available on the web site of the Respondent, President Secretariat. The representative of the President Secretariat submitted before the Commission that the web site is in the process of upgradation. Once it is updated, all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Act, 2017 will be proactively published on the web site.

This Commission holds that once an Order is issued by the President of Pakistan on a representation filed by a citizen, or, a public body, or, a commercial entity, its disclosure cannot be withheld from any citizen under Section 6 (d) of the Act, 2017, nor, its proactive publication can be withheld on the web site under Section 5 (1) (b) of the Act, 2017.

This Commission holds that right of access to information for one is right of access to information for all. If a record, in the case of instant Appeal, a final Order is to be made available to the parties of the case, the public has also the right of access to such an Order.

This Commission maintains that all appellate bodies and courts protect right to privacy of identifiable individuals as well as legitimate commercial interests of commercial entities in the final Orders. Therefore, the assertion of the Respondent that some of the final Orders are not published on the web site as these may cause harm to privacy/commercial interests does not hold water. In any case, the Act, 2017 envisages a situation wherein a document, which should be otherwise be made public but its parts may contain private information, or, information that may cause harm to legitimate commercial interests of an entity. In such an eventuality, the part containing private information, or, information likely to cause harm to legitimate commercial interests can be severed from the document, after recording reasons in writing for the same, as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017.

The Respondent maintained in the hearing that at times Orders on representations contain sensitive information about harassment related issues. This commission is cognizant of the sensitivities involved in such matters. However, it does not mean that there can be blanket exemption to such final Orders. All sensitive information can be withheld and blanked out and the rest of the Order should be made public.

This Commission also does not concur with the Respondent that some final Orders cannot be published on the ground that the either of the parties may take any legal action. The right of access to information of citizens cannot be denied on the possibility and assumption that a party may take legal action against the Order of the President of Pakistan.

 

As the Respondent, President Secretariat is in the process of developing its web site, it needs to keep in mind the observation of this commission in multiple orders issued against different public bodies. This Commission has observed the Web sites of federal public bodies contain generic information and not specific information as required under Section 5 of the Act.

This commission hopes that such an august office as the President of Pakistan will ensure implementation of Section 5 of the Act, 2017 in letter and spirit, setting example for all federal public bodies.

The Respondent, President Secretariat was directed to publish all final Orders on its web site, after severing/blanking out records, or, parts thereof and information which is likely to harm right to privacy of identifiable individuals while ensuring that reasons for such a severance/blanking out of records/information are recorded in writing. The compliance report to this effect be submitted before this commission within one month of the receipt of this Order.

The Respondent, President Secretariat was 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 within one month of the receipt of this Order.

The Respondent, President Secretariat was 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 at the earliest but not later than one month of the receipt of this Order.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2033-06/22 Aamir Baloch Vs Registrar, Islamabad High Court

This Commission holds that the stance of the Respondent that the proceedings on the instant appeal be warrant sine die adjournment as two Writ Petitions on the similar subject are pending for adjudication in the Islamabad High Court, Islamabad does not hold water. The matter under the consideration of Honourable Islamabad High Court in the said petitions is the maintainability of the Writ Petitions which means that it is at pre-admission stage.   The question in these petitions under consideration is whether the Registrar of the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan is competent to invoke the jurisdiction of the court and whether the same falls within the definition of aggrieved person in the context of Article 199 of the Constitution and not the Order of the Commission itself, at least at this stage.

This commission maintains that the pendency of a writ petition regarding the admissibility of another matter cannot be a valid ground to stop the Commission from performing its functions in the instant appeal as the subject matter of the requested information and the Appellant are different. The Appellant in the instant appeal has the right to approach relevant legal forum to exercise his fundamental right of access to information as the said writ petitions are still pending decision at the honourable Islamabad High Court.

The Respondent has submitted that “Islamabad High Court is following the policy guidelines given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan on the matter of provision of Information of Superior Courts in its letter No. F.1/18/2009-SCA, dated: 30.09.2014, to Ministry of Law and Justice (copy enclosed)”.

This Commission holds that the said letter is of administrative nature and not a court verdict and as such cannot trump the Right of Access to Information, 2017 and its Section 2 (xi) (e) which brings Islamabad High Court within the definition of public body and is as under:

“Any court, tribunal, commission, or board under the Federal law;”.

While this Commission entirely agrees with the stance submitted by the Respondent before this commission by Relying on the operative part of policy of Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan, that the independence of Judiciary shall be fully secured”, this Commission maintains 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.

The Respondent has submitted that “the Superior Courts do public Annual Reports on their working giving, amongst other things, the details of year wise Institution/disposal/pendency of cases for information of the general public. Such reports as well as other information pertaining to the composition of Courts, etc., are also available on the websites of the respective Courts”.

This Commission holds that it is not a at the discretion of the public bodies to decide which information is to be proactively published, and how is to be published after the enactment of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 but each public body is legally binding to proactively publish, in accessible manner, all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Act, 2017, including Audit Report of audit year 2020-2021, as requested by the Appellant in the instant appeal.

This commission maintains that the disclosure of the requested information is matter of public importance. Citizens of Pakistan have the right to know under Article 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the provisions of the Act, 2017 about the total sanctioned strength of officers, staff members of Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan,  total vacancies in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against different pay scales/ positions (category wise) and dates since which these positions have been lying vacant, number of staff members who are not regular but have been engaged on daily wages basis or through short term or long term contracts against various positions/ pay scale ( category wise), number and types of positions created anew since January 1 2013, total number of female staff members (category-wise) against various positions/pay-scales, total number of persons with disabilities working with Supreme Court of Pakistan against various positions/ pay-scales (category-wise), total number of transgender persons working with Supreme Court of Pakistan against various positions/ pay-scales (category-wise).

In fact, the requested information about the officers and the staff of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the instant Appeal is identical to the one requested in Appeal No 060-06/19 in the case titled Mukhtar Ahmed Ali vs Supreme Court of Pakistan on which this commission issued Order on   July 12, 2021.

This commission maintains that the citizens of Pakistan have the right to know under Article 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the provisions of the Act, 2017 about total numbers of vehicle provide to Honorable Judges, officers, staff members and employees of Honorable Islamabad High Court, and vehicles purchase, auctioned, depreciated from January 1, 2013 to onward as requested by the Appellant.

This commission maintains that details of allocated & utilized budget and expenditure statement of the current financial year 2021-2022 of the Islamabad High Court Including proposed and actual expenditures is public information and its disclosure is warranted under the provisions of the Act, 2017.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

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.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Dissenting Note of Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah On Order Nadeem Umer Vs Al-Shifa Trust

Information Commissioner, Zahid Abdullah in his dissenting note has stated that there is no stigma attached with free treatment if a person cannot afford such a treatment. In other words, there is no invasion of privacy if community comes to know that a particular individual got treatment for free at Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital. Therefore, there is no harm in disclosing the names and addresses of beneficiaries of public funds, if there is at all, it far outweighs the benefits.

The stigma should be attached with people who can otherwise afford but get concessions and benefits from public bodies in connivance with corrupt officials.

The stigma should be attached with those corrupt officials who fudge numbers, register either ‘fake’, or, ‘underserving beneficiaries and embezzle public funds knowing that names and addresses of the recipients of public funds will stay hidden.

If names and addresses of beneficiaries are proactively published, as the law requires, it would help curb corrupt practices.

Click here to Download /Read Complete Note

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2114-08/22 Ahmed Saeed Vs Federal Board of Revenue

This commission holds that the provision of Yes/No answer to the Appellant, based on the records available with the Respondent, FBR is warranted under the provisions of the Act, 2017 and also as it is a matter of public importance under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the following grounds:

  • Section 25 of the Act, 2017 trumps and overrides provisions of Income Tax Ordinance 2001 with regard to disclosure, or, otherwise of information/records held by the Respondent, FBR.
  • The secrecy clauses of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001  can supplement but cannot supplant provisions of the Act, 2017.
  • the appellant has not sought access to documents but only sought whether or not the public money /tax is collected on the amount received (as show in the documentary evidence provided by the appellant) which only requires Yes/No answer, based on the records available with the Respondent, FBR.
  • The question of privacy concerns does not arise as if the answer is in the affirmative, instead of bringing into disrepute name of the individual concerned, would enhance his reputation as a person who abides by the laws of the land and pays due taxes. (The Respondent, FBR celebrates and acknowledges citizens who pay their taxes)
  • If the answer of the Respondent, FBR, based on the records available, is in the negative, it would bring to the fore the fact that the amount in question is either still kept hidden from the FBR, or, officials concerned are not performing their functions properly and efficiently, hence help promote public accountability, one of the core objectives behind the enactment of the Act, 2017

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2231-09/22 Muhammad Husnain Asif Vs Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

This commission holds that the requested information about records submitted/generated during the recruitment process are not hit by any of the exemption clauses of “the Act, 2017”, including its Section 7 (g).

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 marks assigned by each member of the Selection Board to Each candidate, appeared for interview for the post of Assistant Director Legal at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority 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:

Making government more accountable to citizens’;

  1. Greater level of participation of citizens in the affairs of the government’;
  2. ‘Reducing corruption and inefficiency’;
  3. Promoting sound economic growth’; and
  4. Promoting good governance and respect for human rights.

 

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.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2195-09/22 Faizan Kirmani Vs National Accountability Bureau

Responding to the information request of the Appellant pertaining to the “rules have been framed in terms Section 33C of NAB Ordinance 1999 in order to pay reward to member of public for rendering commendable services in detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence under NAB Ordinance 1999”, the Respondent, NAB submitted that “reward to informer is being awarded on merit in respect of case to case basis as per Rule 4 (e) of National Accountability Bureau (Recovery Reward) Rules, 2000”.

The representative of the Respondent also submitted before this commission that Rule 4 (e) of National Accountability Bureau (Recovery Reward) Rules, 2000 is not published on its web site.

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. 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.

The Respondent, NAB was directed to ensure that information/records mentioned in Section 5 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, including Rule 4 (e) of National Accountability Bureau (Recovery Reward) Rules, 2000, is published on its web site 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 within 10 working days of the receipt of this Order.

The Respondent, NAB was 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 at the earliest but not later than 10 working days of the receipt of this Order.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 2159-08/22 Ahmed Sultan Vs National Engineering Services Pakistan

The record on the file shows that the Respondent has provided some of the information but has not provided all the requested information by the Appellant. Furthermore, the Foundation is a separate entity and not custodian of some of the information requested about the recruitment/employees from the Respondent.

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:

  1. Making government more accountable to citizens’;
  2. Greater level of participation of citizens in the affairs of the government’;

c.‘Reducing corruption and inefficiency’;

  1. Promoting sound economic growth’; and
  2. Promoting good governance and respect for human rights.

The Respondent was directed to provide the Appellant requested information in items b, c, d, e, h, I, j, k, p and q of the para 2 of this Order, at the earliest but not later than 7 working days of the receipt of this order and submit compliance report to this effect to this commission.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Order on Appeal No 1976-06/22 Faisal Hassan Vs Peshawar Electric Supply Company

This commission holds that the requested information about daily Load shedding schedule, restoration of electricity, action taken on the application of the Appellant, based on the records available, any approved proposal, procedures about the handling of complaints and other functions of the Respondent is not only public information, this information should have been proactively published on the web site of the Respondent.

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. 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.

Download Order

Categories
Judgments

Appeal No 2099-08/22 & 2157-08/22 Ali Abbas Khan Vs Capital Development Authority & Federal Investigation Agency

The Respondent-1, CDA has submitted before this commission that “the said inquiry was conducted by the FIA so full details of the investigation may be sought from the said agency”.

This commission holds that the records available on the file suggests that the Respondent-2, FIA closed the enquiry and the matter was transferred to CDA to conduct any enquiry, if needed with all the relevant records. This means that final action, if any, on this enquiry has been taken by the Respondent-1, CDA and it is the custodian of this enquiry report.

Download Order