Govt slated for delaying RTI law passage
ISLAMABAD: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has criticised the government for formulating special committee to clear Right to Information (RTI) Law, terming it a move to cause further confusion and delay the enactment of the law.
“Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives believes that there are already adequate and strong safeguards in Right to Information Bill 2014 to protect sensitive information. Therefore, instead of strengthening the protection of sensitive information from disclosure, the formation of special committee will create confusion and cause further delays in the enactment of Right to Information Law at the federal tier,” the CPDI said in a statement issued here on Monday.
Instead of tabling Right to Information Bill 2014 in Parliament which was approved by the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting on July 15, 2014, the federal government has formed a special committee to review this law and prepare its recommendations. The special committee is tasked to determine, as reported in the national media, whether ‘issues such as National Security, Foreign Relations and Law Enforcement are sufficiently protected under the draft law, given the changing security situation.
“So far as protection of sensitive information is concerned, there is Section 2 (VII) that defines ‘national security’ and sections 18, 19 and 22 have been specifically inserted to protect the disclosure of sensitive information pertaining to international relations, enforcement of law and national security respectively. Yet another safeguard against the disclosure of sensitive information is the proposed Pakistan Information Commission to be established under Section 29 of Right to Information Bill 2014,” the statement added.
Pakistan Information Commission will be an independent and autonomous body, comprising of three information commissioners drawn from superior judiciary, lawyer’s fraternity and civil society. That will decide whether the disclosure of certain information will be harmful to national security or the disclosure will serve public interest. Even if a public body is not satisfied with the decision of Pakistan Information Commission, it would be able to file writ petition with superior judiciary to adjudicate on the findings of the commission.
The CPDI said the sensitive information pertaining to national security sector needs to be protected and Right to Information Bill 2014 contains strong provisions to strike a balance between protecting sensitive information without compromising the disclosure of information in public interest. There is likelihood that the recommendations of the special committee in the name of ‘changing security situation’ may result in fracturing political consensus on Right to Information Bill 2014 demonstrated in its unanimous approval by the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting and will surely strengthen the perception that federal government wants to delay the enactment of federal right to information law on one pretext or the other. The CPDI demanded that the federal government should present the Right to Information Bill 2014 in Parliament without further delay.