May 19, 2016Print : Peshawar
PESHAWAR: In a watershed decision, the chief commissioner Right to Information Commission (RTIC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has directed the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) to provide information sought by requestor under the RTI law within 14 days or face the penalty under the law.
The decision that bounded the major service delivery body for power supply in the province to provide information came as a result of the hearing of a case brought before the RTIC by a requester against the company.
It is to be mentioned here that this happened after a general reluctance on the part of Pesco to comply with the RTI law to share simple information to the consumers on the grounds that it was a federal government body and was not bound to provide any information under the RTI Act of the provinces. After a wait of months, a requester Samiullah registered his complaint with the RTIC for a cut-off decision on the matter so that it could be settled once and for all.
The RTIC had given 10 days to the Pesco to reply as to why it was denying information under the RTI law. The director Pesco, Ansar Hussain, appeared before the RTIC and informed it of the opinion of the legal advisor of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pvt) Limited (Pepco) that the power distribution companies, including Pesco, were working under the umbrella of the Ministry of Water and Power of the federal government and, therefore, the RTI law did not apply to them.
The RTIC pointed out that Pepco was set up and registered under the Companies Ordinance, 1984. It argued that the sole purpose to establish these companies was to allow them to work as independent private limited companies and bring them out of the ambit of the federal government to improve their service delivery.
Like all other distribution companies, the RTIC observed, Pesco was also the outcome of this intent and it was registered under the Companies Ordinance 1984.It added, “The Companies Ordinance 1984 is as subject not enumerated in the Federal Legislative List and hence it is a provincial law for all practical purposes and is consequently applicable to all limited companies registered under the same ordinance.”
It also referred to Section 2 of the RTI Act pertaining to the definition of the public body, and said the RTI law provided that any organisation undertaking a public function is a public body and came under the ambit of the RTI Act.
“On that score alone Pesco is a public body carrying out the most important public function of supplying electric power to the general public and its authorities are bound to supply the information to any requester and complainant under the RTI in accordance to the procedure laid down in the Act,” it added.
The RTIC directed the Pesco authorities to provide the information to the complainant within 14 days failing which punitive action would be initiated under Section 26 of the RTI Act against them.