Javed Jabbar circulates freedom of information draft ordinance for public debate -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Javed Jabbar circulates freedom of information draft ordinance for public debate

KARACHI- Federal Information and Media Development Minister Javed Jabbar circulated a draft ordinance of the freedom of information, 2000 for public debate, opinion and criticism.

Addressing a press conference at a local hotel, Jabbar said the document would be debated for 30 days, after which it would be given a final shape, after taking into consideration all the suggestions and criticism received by the Ministry of Information. The debate beginning from August 28 would close on September 28.

The ordinance, suitably amended and modified in the light of the suggestion proposals and criticism, is expected to be placed before the Cabinet sometime in November for a decision, he added. He said the suggestions, proposals, amendments, could be sent to the secretary, Ministry of Information and Media Development, Islamabad, or on the Internet through the website of the Ministry of Information.

He said the ordinance was aimed at to facilitating the collection of information by the media in a transparent manner. It would also ensure access to the information and freedom of expression, he added. Jabbar said the ordinance had some loopholes, which would be plugged in the light of public debate and suggestions.

To a question, he replied clauses relating to “classified documents”, its definition and interpretation were sensitive and would have to be looked into with all seriousness. The danger that some of the clauses could be misused and misinterpreted by the people in power was there and had to be guarded against.

Text of the draft ordinance on freedom of information

The following is the text of the draft ordinance on freedom of information unveiled by Minister of Information Javed Jabbar at a press conference.

A Draft Ordinance to provide for transparency and freedom of information:

Whereas it is expedient to provide for transparency and freedom for information to ensure that the citizens of Pakistan have improved access to public records and for the purpose to make the Federal Government more accountable to its citizens, and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto:

And whereas the National Assembly and the Senate stand suspended in pursuance of the Proclamation and the Senate stand suspended in pursuance of the Proclamation of Emergency of the fourteenth day of October, 1999, and the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 1999:

And whereas the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action:

Now, therefore, in pursuance of the Proclamation of Emergency of the fourteenth day of October 1999, read with the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 1999, as well as Order No 9 of 1999, and in exercise of all powers enabling him in that behalf, the President is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance:

1. Short title extent and commencement: – (1) This Ordinance may be called the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2000. (2) It extends to the whole of Pakistan. (3) It shall come into force at once.

2. Definition: – In this Ordinance unless there is anything repugnant to the subject or context: –

(a) “designated official” means an official of a public office designated under section 5;
(b) “Mohtasib” means the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) appointed under Article 3 of the Establishment of the Office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983 (P.O. No.1 of 1983);
(c) ” prescribed ” means prescribed by rules made under this Ordinance;
(d) ” Public office” means: –

(i) Any Ministry, Division, department or office of the Federal Government;
(ii) Secretariat of Majlis-e-Shora (Parliament);
(iii) Any office of any Board, Commission, Council, or other body established by, or under, a Federal law; and
(iv) any office of a body which is owned or controlled by the Federal Government or in which the Federal Government has a controlling share or interest; and
(e) “record” shall include drawings, computer records, photography, microfilms, cinematograph films and audio and video recordings,

3. Declaration of public records: Subject to the provisions of the section 4, the following record of all public offices are hereby declared-to be the public record, namely: – (a) instructions, policies and guidelines; (b) record relating to sale, purchase, lease, mortgage, acquisition or transfer in any other manner of properties both movable and immovable; (c) record pertaining to approvals, consents, permissions, concessions, benefits, privileges, licenses, contracts, permits, agreements, or any other advantages; and (d) final orders including decisions taken at all meetings.

4. Exclusion of certain record: – Nothing contained in section 3 shall apply to the following record of all public offices, namely: –

(a) nothing on (iii) any office of any Board, the files;
(b) minutes of meetings;
(c) any interim orders;
(d) records of banking companies and financial institutions relating to the accounts of their customers;
(e) records declared as classified under the policy made by the Federal Government:
(f) record relating to the personal privacy of any individual; and
(g) record of private documents furnished to a public office either on an express or implied condition that information contained in any such document shall not be disclosed to a third person.

5. Designated official: –

(1) The Federal government may, within thirty days of the commencement of this Ordinance, for every public office designate an official for the purposes of this Ordinance.
(2) In case no such official has been designated or in, the event of the absence or non-availability of the designated or in the event of the absence or non-availability of the designated official, the person incharge of the public office shall be the designated official.

6. Functions of designated official: Subject to the provisions of this Ordinance and the roles made there-under and the overall supervision and control of the Federal Government, the designated official shall provide the information contained in any public record or, as the case may be, a copy of any such record.

7. Application for obtaining information etc.

(1) Subject to the sub-section
(2) any citizen of Pakistan may make an application to the designated official in the form as may be prescribed and shall with his application, furnish such information and documents, pay such fee and at such time as may be prescribed.
(2) Nothing contained in sub-section
(1) shall apply to such public record as has been published in the official Gazette or in the
form of a book offered for sale.

8. Procedure for disposal of application:

(1) Subject to sub- section
(2) on receiving an application under section 7, the designated official shall, within twenty-one days of the receipt of request, supply to the applicant the required information or, as the case may be, a copy of any public record.

(2) In case the designated official is of the opinion that: –

(a) the application is not in the form as has been prescribed
(b) the applicant has not furnished such information and documents or has not paid such fee as has been prescribed
(c) the applicant is not entitled to receive such information
(d) the required information or as the case may be, the required records does not constitute a public record under section 3; or
(e) the required information or, may be, the required record which is excluded under section 4, he shall record his decision in writing and the and the applicant shall be informed about such decision within twenty-one days of the application.

(3) The information from, copy of, any public record supplied the applicant under subsection (1) shall contain a certificate at the foot thereof that the information is correct or, as the case may be, the copy is a true copy of such public record and such certificate shall be dated signed by the designated official.

9. Recourses of the Mohtasib: –

(1) If the applicant is not provided information or copy of the declared public record under section 3 within the prescribed time or the designated official refuse such information or, as the case may be, copy of such record on the ground that the applicant is not entitled to receive such information or copy of such record, the applicant may within thirty days of the last date of such information or, as the case may be, copy of such record, or the communication of the order of the designated official declining to give such information or copy of such record, file a complaint with the Mohtasib.
(2) The Mohtasib may after, hearing the applicant and the designated official, direct the designated official to give the information or, as the case may be, the copy of the record or may reject the complaint.

10. Ordinance not to derogate other laws:- The provisions of this Ordinance shall be in addition to and not in derogation of anything contained in any other law for the time being in force.

11. Power to make rules: –

(1) The Federal Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Ordinance.
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing powers, such rules may provide for:

(a) the fee payable for obtaining information from, and copies of the public records;
(b) the form of application for obtaining information from, and copies of, the public-record; and
(c) the form in which information from public record shall be furnished.

hich information from public record shall be furnished
Source: Dawn
Date:8/29/2000