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President urged to send RAI Bill 2017 back to Parliament

By Waseem Abbasi
October 07, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Terming the newly passed Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017 restrictive, a civil society organisation has urged the president to resend the bill to Parliament for the review under Article 74 of the Constitution.

In a letter written to President Mamnoon Hussain, the Executive Director of CPDI Amer Ejaz highlighted the flaws in the RAI Bill 2017 saying that it did not guarantee free flow of information.

“We request you to use your powers under Article 74 of the Constitution and advise Parliament to review this bill in light of suggestions from civil society and RTI experts,” he wrote. The National Assembly of Pakistan passed Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 on October 2, 2017. The bill was originated in the Senate and was passed on August 22, 2017.

“The bill defies international best practices and against the norms set by international community for Right to Information Legislation,” the letter says adding that unless the bill is reviewed and certain sections are improved or replaced, the bill will not comply with the global best practices of Right to Information legislations.

Since the introduction of bill in the Senate, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has been raising voice on various forums that the bill is restrictive in nature and will not serve the purpose of free flow of information, according to the aspiration of the citizens of Pakistan.

“The RAI Bill 2017 instead of drawing a narrow list of exemptions, declare a narrow list as public record and put most of information outside the public domain,” the letter reads. In RAI 2017, the power to apply "harm" and "public interest test" has been entrusted with the minister concerned. This is against the principal of justice that the minister is given the final powers to classify a record when minister is himself/herself a party in the case, it adds.