CPDI deplores rising trend of disciplinary action against government employees for seeking information

ISLAMABAD, Bureaucracy has started resorting to launching enquiries and disciplinary actions as more and more citizens are trying to have access to information under right to information laws of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

According to a report released by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CDPI) here on Thursday, it is highly unfortunate that teachers are facing wrath of bureaucracy in the shape of transfers, suspensions and enquiries for seeking copies of seniority lists.

As reported in the press on March 25th, district education officer (DEO) Nowshera suspended two school teachers Ijaz Ur Rahman and Mudassir Shah under West Pakistan Government Servants (Conduct) Rules 1966.

According to Ijaz Ur Rahman, he was first transferred and then suspended because he had sought information about seniority list and PTC Fund from District Officer, Education Department. What is even worrying is the response of Sub Divisional Education Officer (SDEO) Nowshera Abdul Samad.

As reported in the press, he said that such information requests are not responded to as requested information is displayed on notice boards of some circle offices. Mr. Samad obviously does not know that even if the requested information is available in the public domain, the public body is bound under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 to guide the requester as to where the requested information could be obtained.

On March 04, it was reported in the national press that the Punjab University found a former professor guilty of misuse of authority in an inquiry conducted after he had requested release of information under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 about faculty who continued to occupy official residences after their retirement.

Earlier in June 2014, Executive District Officer Vehari launched enquiry against a primary school teacher for seeking seniority list under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. Punjab Information Commission imposed fine equal to sixty days of the salary of EDO Vehari and also said that the EDO Vehari “acted with malafide intentions to first delay and then obstruct access to the requested information by intimidating the complainant to withdraw the complaint filed with the commission”.

CDPI urged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission to play its role by invoking the penalty clause of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 if officials are found to have acted in bad faith.

Furthermore, both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission and Punjab Information Commission, playing their roles assigned under their respective right to information laws, should develop comprehensive recommendations and shared them with the provincial governments in order to get rid of those laws that are contrary to the spirit of both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 and the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

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