Key amendments proposed to KP RTI law
ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa RTI Commission has proposed a number of promising amendments to the province’s RTI law to make it stronger with more powers for the commission.
The amendments are primarily intended to increase the Commission’s powers in enforcing its decisions on complaints by citizens against the non-provision of information by public bodies.
KP’s Right to Information Act was one of the best RTI laws in the world when it was promulgated in December 2013. However, a number of controversial amendments inserted into the law by the provincial assembly in June 2015 weakened the law.
The new amendments proposed by the Commission, if passed by the KP Assembly, will make the RTI law even more water tight than when it was initially promulgated in 2013.
The first key amendment proposed by the Commission is in Section 6 of the KP RTI Act. After sub-section (3), two new sub-sections have been added to ensure that designated officials, i.e. Public Information Officers (PIOs), responsible for dealing with public information requests, are provided full support by their departments.
Interference by superiors is the main reason why PIOs are unable to ensure full disclosure of information at the level of individual government departments, according to the documents provided to ‘The News’ by the KP RTI Commission.
The new Section 26 (4) in the proposed amendment bill ensures that heads of public bodies can now be prosecuted for obstruction (defined in Section 28) in case a Department or public body fails to release information, upon directives of the Information Commission. Further amendments to Section 28 (1)(d) guarantees that provision of false or misleading information upon request is also considered as an offence under the RTI Act.
Insertion of new Section 26 (5) and (6) defines procedures for collecting fines imposed by the Commission against non-provision of information by the government departments and public bodies. Previously, the Commission lacked any mechanism for collecting such fines, primarily due to non-promulgation of rules under the RTI Act.
Experts believe that these amendments will empower the Information Commission in ensuring that government departments comply with its decisions. “Over the past few years, institutions like Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan and the KP Police have refused to release of information on orders of the RTI Commission, even though their officials were fined,” said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of PILDAT, an organisation working on promotion of the RTI.