Wednesday July 17, 2024

RIT Bill 2017 does not provide possible access to public records

By our correspondents
August 25, 2017

Islamabad :Raising concerns over Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) said the purview of the bill is regrettably restrictive and ineffective.

“The RAI Bill 2017 passed by the Senate is not in harmony with the globally accepted principles of RTI legislation,” CPDI Executive Director Amer Ejaz, says  in a press release on Thursday.

He said the bill fell short of meeting key standards of effective right to information legislation.Like, the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, he opined, the RAI Bill 2017 also violated the key standard of effective right to information legislation, which says “There should be one clear and narrowly drawn list of exempted information and the rest should be declared public.”

The National Assembly should revise the bill after taking input of civil society groups and right to information experts, he maintained.The proposed commission on access to information in the RAI Bill 2017 should be empowered to instruct public bodies to disclose the information if the disclosure is in public interest and outweighs the likely harm, he added.

“It is strange that how minister-in-charge of the federal government can name a document as classified, while this right should have been with the Pakistan Information Commission,” he went on to say.It is Suffice to say that Right of access to information 2017 does not ensure constitutionally guaranteed citizen’s fundamental right to know in an optimal shape, he said.

It is to be recorded that just two days before the bill was approved by the Senate, the CPDI had penned a letter to the Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb highlighting the flaws in the bill.

It was maintained that the bill is limited in its scope as the definition of Information in Section 2(v) is limited, the Bill lacks grounds of complaints in Section 2(1) grievance of an applicant is termed as an ‘appeal’ and not as a complaint, grounds on which an applicant could have ‘a complaint’ is not elaborated.

Right of access to information as described in Section 2(12) is limited and lack right of inspection and right to take certified samples from the public bodies. Despite of having one narrowly drawn list of exemptions, Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 possesses three different lists of exemptions and the powers granted to ‘Pakistan Commission on Access to Information’ are also limited.