Coalition on Right to Information, a consortium of 52 civil society groups has demanded the Punjab government to take proper steps for the implementation of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.
Executive Director of an NGO Amer Ejaz, other members, including Tauqeer Mustafa, Zahid Islam and Zahid Abdullah said citizens are facing serious challenges in exercising their right to information as the Punjab government has not provided staff to Punjab Information Commission to carry out its functions since the enactment of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. They said ever since the completion of the tenure of information commissioners, new commissioners have not been appointed as yet.
Addressing reporters during a press conference here at Lahore Press Club, Amer Ejaz said that without the active support of the Punjab government, citizens’ right of access to information will remain a pipe dream. Therefore, the Punjab government needs to take immediate steps for the implementation of CRTI Charter of Demands.
Amer Ijaz said the information commission in Punjab also faced many challenges like funds, staff, etc during the last three years. He said only Rs1 million were allocated for the advertisements and publicity of the working of the commission which was very meagre to deal with such issues. He also highlighted that only five officials were deputed at information commission in Punjab against a sanctioned strength of 46.
Tauqeer Mustafa said that citizens are losing confidence in the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 as many public bodies have not designated public information officers.
Even where public information officers have been designated, there is no information available about their particulars on the websites of public bodies. Unavailability of requisite staff and delay in the appointment of information commissioners has resulted in hundreds of pending complaints with Punjab Information Commission, he lamented.
Zahid Islam said democracy itself is weakened when citizens are unable to exercise their right to know and they are kept in the dark about matters of public importance. He said Punjab Right to Information Act 2013 needs to be strengthened. He said no department/institute wanted to share information desired by the people. He said it was a basic right of the people incorporated in the Constitution of the country.
Zahid Abdullah, Programme Manager, speaking on the occasion, said Punjab Information Commission gave some landmark decision during its three-year tenure. He demanded implementation of Right to Information Act 2013 in totality for the facilitation of people.
On the occasion, CRTI also made several demands for the Punjab government for the implementation of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, including that Chief Information Commissioners and two information commissioners at Punjab Information Commission be appointed on urgent basis in line with criterion mentioned in Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.
It also demanded the government to approve service rules for Punjab Information Commission so that it could recruit staff to carry out its functions, provide requisite staff to Punjab Information Commission.
It also demanded the Punjab government to instruct public bodies to implement Section 4 of Punjab RTI law pertaining to proactive disclosure of information through websites and provide necessary funds to public bodies in this regard.
Furthermore, the speakers demanded the Punjab government to ensure that public information officers are designated and notified in all public bodies as required by Section 7 of the law and in line with the guidelines issued by the commission and also ensure that their contact details are easily accessible through notice boards, websites and publications. Public information officers should be designated by post and not by name to ensure continuity in case of retirement, transfer or death of a public information officer, they concluded.
Published in The News
May 19, 2017