Transparency and Right to Information Act – A Hope

Transparency and Right to Information Act – A Hope

When we talk about change then we should also play our role for change. It is only possible when we will take a step and ask questions. We should ask questions to government. For that matter, there is a mechanism that is in place. Back in the day, nobody could dare ask question to a public body. Now, there is a proper act that enables public to ask for information. Punjab that is population wise the biggest province of Pakistan, has promulgated a law that is known as “The Punjab Transparency and Right to information Act 2013”. According to this law any citizen can get information that is held by government bodies under Govt. of Punjab. In order to know how this act can be used effectively it’s tried to find answers of some questions given below. Question 1: How RTI can be used for Transparency and highlighting corruption? Answer: No doubt, it’s an effective law but public awareness about this right is minimal. This law can be helpful in many ways like, it can help us to know corruption cases in different departments and decisions taken against the culprits, thereby it can be instrumental in combating corruption. Question 2: How citizens can get benefit from RTI? Answer: The purpose of law is to facilitate a common man, but unfortunately people do not know the purpose of this law. They should be aware of this law. This law may not only solve our individual issue but it may also solve communal issues. For instance, a rejected candidate by any government department can put up a request to know about the causes of his failure in securing job. Similarly, on communal level, a request could be lodged for getting information about shortage of medicine or absence of doctor from government hospital. Moreover, information request about allocation of budget may be lodged. In a nutshell, this law has enormous benefits to public. This law vouches for gradual improvement in service delivery and thereby good governance. Question 3: Who can take information? Answer: According to RTI law any Pakistani Citizen can get information within 14 working days after submitting an application. The Punjab Govt. department is bound to provide requested information to the citizen within 14 days. Question 4: Is there any fee to file the application? Answer: There is no fee for the submission of application but if the applicant needs some photocopies or DVD’s etc. from the Govt. departments then he/she will have to pay actual market price of that material. Question 5: If the applicant did not get response in 14 days then he/she has a right to appeal? Answer: If an applicant does not get a response within 14 days. Or he receives incomplete information. Applicant can put forth an appeal before Provincial Information Commission, upon which PIC intervenes and ensures that information is being shared with an applicant. After fourteenth day of continuous aversion from provision of information; each passing day will cost an office bearer his two days of salary. Question 6: Which information a Public Information Officer cannot share? Answer: There are some types of information that citizens are not entitled to put application for. Disclosure of such information can put at risk the national interest. The areas of interest regarding which information cannot be sought are as follows; Information pertinent to national security A legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information The protection of legally privileged information or of the rules relating to breach of confidence The legitimate commercial interests of a public body or a third party, including information subject to third party intellectual property rights. The life, health or safety of any person The prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice The ability of the Government to manage the economy or the effective formulation of or success of a policy either by its premature disclosure or by restraining the free and frank provision of advice within the Government. Despite these exceptions, PIC receives applications that information has been denied to them. In this case, PIC decides whether the information requested is shareable or not. People should nevertheless, not look forward to ask information that directly or indirectly harmful to anyone. > Recommendations: There should be more public awareness so that people can get benefit from the law. Public should refrain from putting up application that asks for harmful or risky information. > References: Punjab Laws Online (2013). THE PUNJAB TRANSPARENCY AND RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT 2013 (Act XXV of 2013). Retrieved from http://punjablaws.gov.pk/laws/2547.html