ISLAMABAD— Pakistan Information Commission, the final appellate authority for Right of Access to Information Act, report card shows that over 60 percent of appeals and complaints were pending before the commission.
According to the PIC’s website, the commission, since it come into effect -November 2018, has so far received 1734 appeals out of which 1038 were pending before the body. The body resolved only 696 cases between Nov 2018 and Dec 15, 2021. The figures show the poor performance of the Pakistan Information Commission despite slow flow of the appeals.
These resolved cases do not include appeals on which the commission has issued over 395 orders in which the partial information has been provided after specific directions of the commission and are in process of implementation.
The commission received highest number of appeals against the Ministry of Defence and its attached departments, (141), followed by the Ministry of Law and Justice, (44), Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court, (42), the Ministry of Finance, (37), Federal Board of Revenue and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, (34), CDA (33), National Accountability Bureau and the Ministry of Education and Professional Training, (32) and FIA (31).
The commission has issued a total of 395 detailed orders on the appeals filed by citizens against federal public bodies for delaying or unlawfully denying access to information. The highest number of orders, 33, were issued against the Ministry of Defence and its attached departments.
Overview of Few Landmark Judgments:
Some of the public interest Orders of the commission pertain to the issue of minimum wage of sanitary workers and security guards, rights of passangers and patients, constitutionality of right to information, declaration of records more than 20 years old as public record, disclosure of information pertaining to the fees paid to the lawyers from public funds and declaration of SNGPL, Pakistan Cricket Board and Islamabad Club as a public body. After a citizen linked the right of access to information in matters of public importance with the issue of minimum wage of janitorial staff, hired through third party contractors and performing duties in different public bodies, 44 Cantonment Boards, Civil Aviation Authority, and CDA has started paying minimum wages to its genitorial staff after Orders of the commission.
With regard to the rights of patients to the information held by the hospitals and doctors, in Appeal No 175-11/2019, Ms. Nadia Naeem Vs. Pakistan Medical Commission, the commission held that any record that can be submitted to a regulatory body, or, the regulatory body is empowered to get access to the record, is record/information for the purposes of this Act and can be shared with the applicants/appellants, if warranted by the provisions of the Act.
With regard to protecting rights of passangers, in one of its Orders, the commission observed that Civil Aviation Authority, (CAA) is responsible to ensure that information about the rights of passengers is disseminated through all channels of communication which the airlines employ for transaction of business with their passengers. As such, the Respondent should ensure airlines make available information about the rights of passengers through their web sites, electronic and printed tickets and airlines counters.
The sources in the PIC, says that primary reason for pending appeals is that several posts are lying vacant. There are 13 sanctioned total posts out of which three are vacant. But despite of all three commissioners is available, the total number of pending appeals and complaints is higher.
The Establishment Division has yet to approve Service Rules of the commission. As such, the process of recruitment of staff above BPS 16 has not started yet.
The commission began performing its substantive functions right after its inception in 2018 and has been doing so tirelessly without even an official working space till June 2020. All functions were performed entirely in accordance with, inter alia, section 19 of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2019. One of the most important functions of the Commission is to receive and decide on appeals among others, wrongful denial or delay in providing access to information.