Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) has received a complaint pertaining to the moving of a private bill “Right of Access to Information (Amendment Act 2021)” by some Senators with the objective to exclude Parliament from the definition of public bodies, which are bound to provide information to citizens, before the Senate.
According to the TIP, the complainant has raised objections to the proposed private bill that the amendments are aimed at excluding the Senate, National Assembly, their secretariats, committees and members from the definition of “public body” as contained in Section 2(ix) (c) of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 and are unconstitutional as these proposed amendments violate Article 19-A of the Constitution.
The complainant pointed out that the right to information, as enshrined in Article 19-A of the Constitution, clearly stipulates: “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law”.
The TIP also quoted the complainant, citing the Lahore High Court’s landmark judgment, which declared that “Right to information is another corrective tool which allows public access to the working and decision making of the public authorities.
It opens the working of public administration to public scrutiny. This necessitates transparent and structured exercise of discretion by the public functionaries. Article 19-A empowers the civil society of this country to seek information from public institutions and hold them answerable” PLD 2010 Lahore 605.
The complainant further said that in a democracy, Parliament is the supreme institution and it is a fundamental right of every citizen to have an access to the functioning of the parliament. Excluding Senate, National Assembly, their secretariats, committees and members from the definition of “public body” also tantamount to treating peoples’ representatives as above the rule of law and accountability. In no democracies such examples are found where parliamentarians are considered above the purview of the RTI law.
Source: Pakistan Observer