The Right to Information Act 2010

Published: November 10, 2010
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Whereas it is expedient to provide a law for the access to information for the purposes stated in the objects and aims of this bill:

1. Short title, extent and commencement:

(1) This Act shall be called the Right to Information Act, 2010.

2. It shall apply to the whole of Pakistan.

3. It shall come into force forthwith.

2. Definition. In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context;

(a) “complainant” means

(i) a requester, or

(ii) any person acting for and on behalf of a requester;

(b) “complaint” means any grievance registered in writing by a complainant to the effect that

(i) access to record has been wrongfully denied to a requester, or that

(ii) access to and/or correction of information relating to him has been wrongfully denied to a requester by a public body having custody or control of the record; or that

(iii) the information sought by a requester has been unduly delayed by a public body.

iv) where only part of the information requested has reached the complainant

v) where there is an exorbitant amount of fees imposed on the request

vi) where there is a restriction on the type of information not falling within the ambit of Article 2(f) and Article 8.

(c) “designated official” means an official of a public body designated to provide information sought by a requester;

(d) “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act;

(e) “principal officer” means:

(i) in the case of federal or provincial ministries/departments the Secretary of the Ministry, division or department and

(ii) in all other cases, the head or chief executive of the public body by whatever designation he is identified;

(f) “public record” means record mentioned in Sec 7 in any form, whether printed or in writing or in any form such as map, diagram, photograph, film, video, microfilm, document memos, emails, opinions, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contract reports, papers, samples, model and date material held in electronic form;

(i) transactions involving acquisition and disposal of property and expenditure undertaken by a public body;

(ii) information regarding grant of licences, approvals, consents, allotments and other benefits and privileges, and contracts made, by a public body;

(iii) information relating to appointments, promotions, disciplinary actions etc. of personnel employed by a public body;

(iv) correspondence, summaries and notes relating to any of the above matters;

(v) any information required to be furnished by a person to a public body under any law or furnished for the purpose of receiving any benefit or advantage;

(vi) any information of whatsoever nature in possession of a public body in which members of the public may have a legitimate interest; but does not include the following:

(i) all internal working documents of a public body pertaining to the decision making process,  including proposals for Cabinet decisions, proposals relating to management of the national economy, and other affairs of the Government, till such time that a final decision has been taken and implemented by the public body.

(Explanation: After a final decision has been taken and implemented in respect of any of the matters referred to in this clause, all documents, including summaries and proposals shall be deemed to constitute ‘public record’ available for access under this Act. These internal working documents are not those pertaining to the policy development process or activity within the public body).

(ii) matters relating to law enforcement and public safety, which are restricted to the following:

(a) investigative reports undertaken by public agencies for the prevention and detection of crime, and for the collection and assessment of taxes, including any information obtained or received in the course of any investigation;

(b) any information about the existence or non-existence or identity of a confidential source of information in relation to the enforcement of any law;

(c) any information the disclosure whereof would endanger the life or physical safety of any person, or prejudice the fair trial of a person or the impartial adjudication of a particular case before any court or tribunal;

(iii) any information relating to scientific or technical research the disclosure whereof would, or could reasonably be expected to, expose a public body to disadvantage;

(iv) any information the disclosure whereof would violate any intellectual property rights;

(v) any information the disclosure whereof is recognised to be detrimental to public interest;

(vi) any information regarding defence planning, deployment of forces, defence installations, and matters that can legitimately be related to national security.

vii) For purposes of sub section (v) “public interest” means public safety and public security only and does not apply to government confidentiality.

viii) For purposes of sub section (vii), the given exceptions therein do not apply if the benefit of disclosure is weighed against the detriment of admission of information and there is greater public interest in disclosing the information.

(g)  “public body” means:

(i) any ministry, division, department, or attached department of the federal or the provincial government;

(ii) any federal or provincial legislature and any municipal or local authority set up or established by or under any law;

(iii) any statutory corporation or other body corporate or institution set up or established or owned or controlled or funded by the federal or a provincial government;

(iv) any incorporated or unincorporated body or legal entity functioning under the control or authority of the federal or a provincial government or wherein one or more of such governments owns or has controlling interests, or which is funded by any such government;

(v) any court, tribunal, commission or board.

vi) any private body which carries out work of a public nature which concerns of affects the public rights of individuals or which receives public funds.

vii) for purposes of subsection vi), a  private body with carries out work of a public nature includes state owned enterprises, entities that exercise administrative authority and entities which receive public funds regardless of the work that they perform.

3. Access to information not to be denied. (i) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, and subject to this Act, no requester shall be denied access to any public record other than exemptions mentioned in this Act.

(ii) This Act shall be interpreted so as

(i) to promote the right to information as a constitutional right.

(ii) to facilitate and encourage, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, the disclosure of information.

iii) All public bodies falling within the ambit of this Act shall publish, in simple terms,  a yearly report on documents and activities of relevance to the public including information on organizational structure, norm and functioning, budget and finance, content of decisions and activities affecting the public and efforts to include public consultation in decision making.

4. Maintenance and indexing of records: 1) Subject to provisions of this Act and in accordance with the rules that may be prescribed, principal officer of each public body shall ensure that all records covered under clause (g) of section 2 of this Act are properly maintained.2) There shall be the establishment of an appropriate body which will take it upon itself to develop guidelines on the maintaining of records and a Code of Practice developed to serve this purpose. 3) The Code of Practise will highlight the procedure of officials in keeping, maintaining and releasing these records.

5. Publication and availability of records.

1] (i) The acts and subordinate legislation such as rules and regulations, notifications, by-laws, manuals, orders having the force of law in Pakistan as well as reports of legislative and municipal proceedings and boards and commissions shall be duly published and made available at a reasonable price at an adequate number of outlets so that access thereof is easier, less time-consuming and less expensive.

(ii) The principal officer of each public body shall within three months of the commencement of this Act cause to be published in its official website and special publications and shall immediately make available for inspection and copying, during office hours at each of its offices and branches, the following information:

(a) description of the public body’s organisation and functions, indicating as far as possible the duties and functions of various officers of the body empowered to take decisions;

(b) statutes, statutory rules, regulations, orders, notifications applicable to the public body disclosing the date of their respective coming into force or effect;

(c) substantive or procedural rules and regulations of general application evolved or adopted by the public body;

(d) statement of policies adopted by the public body and the criteria, standards or guidelines upon which discretionary powers are exercised by it;

(e) the conditions upon which members of the public can acquire any licences, permits, consents, approvals, grants, allotments or other benefits of whatsoever nature from any public body, or upon which transactions, and contracts (including contracts of employment) can be entered into with the public body;

(f) the methods whereby specific information in possession or control of the public body may be obtained, and the basis of the fee required therefore;

(g) such other matters which the principal officer of the public body deems fit to be published in the public interest;

Provided that no information otherwise already published in the public body’s official website shall be required to be so published under this sub-section.

(2) any amendment, alteration or modification relating to matters described in sub-section (1) shall also be published and made available for inspection and copying in the like manner, and no person shall be adversely affected by any amendment, modification or alteration of any matter other than a statute.

3) For the purposes of subsection 1), the records shall be computerized and published on the internet to facilitate greater access.

6. Computerisation of records. –1] Each public body shall endeavour within reasonable time and subject to availability of resources that all records covered by the provisions of this Act are computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that authorised access to such records is facilitated.

(2) The Federal Government shall maintain an RTI website listing updated rules, application forms as well as the names and addresses of the designated officials.

7. Declaration of public record.1] – Subject to the provisions of section 8, all record of public bodies mentioned in this Act is hereby declared to be the public record.

2] De-classification: Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, all documents will become public record after 20 years of their initiation.

8. Exclusion of certain record. –All exclusion and classification must be accompanied by a record of reasons for such exclusion.

Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the following record of public bodies, namely:

a] record of the banking companies and financial institutions relating to the accounts of their customers;

b] record relating to deployment of defence forces, defence installations or connected therewith or ancillary to national security will apply only when its threat to national security can be demonstrated;

c] record relating to the personal privacy of any individual

2)For purposes of sub section (i), the given exceptions do not apply if the benefit of disclosure is weighed against the detriment of admission of information and there is greater public interest in disclosing the information.

9. Duty to assist requesters. 1) A public body shall take necessary steps as may be prescribed to assist any requester under this Act. 2) For the purposes of subsection 1), the information officer of the concerned public body must assist  a requestor who is illiterate or indigent in making the request for information and give the requestor a reasonable opportunity to comply with all the requirements of the request.

10. Designation of official. – (1) A public body shall designate and notify an officer on its staff to whom requests under this Act are to be made. These officials will be designated to ensure easy public access to information.

(2) In case no such official has been designated or in the event of the absence or non-availability of the designated official, the principal officer of the public body shall be the designated official

11. Functions of designated official. – Subject to the provisions of this Act and the rules made there under, the designated official shall provide the information contained in any public record or, as the case may be, a copy of any such record.

12. Applications for obtaining information.– (1) Subject to sub-section (2), any citizen or resident of  Pakistan may make an application to the designated official in the form as may be prescribed and shall with his application, furnish necessary particulars, 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. 3) The right of access will not be affected by either a) any reasons the citizen states for seeking access or b) the agency’s or Minister’s belief as to what his or her reasons for seeking access.

4) Where an application is made to a public authority for an official document which is

a) held by another public authority

b) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority

the first mentioned public authority shall transfer the application to the concerned public authority on behalf of the requestor of information and inform the requestor of the transfer immediately.

c) For purposes of subsection a) and b) the transfer of the application shall be made as soon as it is practicable but no later than fourteen days after the date of receipt of the application.

13. Procedure for disposal of applications. – The designated official shall, within fourteen 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 unless the exceptions in subsection 2) apply in case of which  disclosure of information may be refused.

(2)  The officials may not be compelled to accede to the request, and will be required to give reasons in writing for the rejection within fourteen days, when the designated official, on the authority of the Principal officer,  is of the opinion that –

(a) the applicant has not furnished necessary particulars or has not paid such fee as has been prescribed;

(b) the required information or, as the case may be, the required record does not constitute a public record or is in the public interest ;

(c) the required information or, as the case may be, the required record constitutes a record which is excluded under section 8

3) Where the exceptions listed in subsection 2) or elsewhere in this Act as Section 2(f) or Section 8 apply, partial information may be disclosed therein or in the case of non-availability of complete  information within the organization, the application must be forwarded to another suitable public organization by the Public Information Officer which may duly release the  requisite information.

(3) The information from, or the copy of, any public record supplied to the applicant under sub-section (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 and signed by the designated official.

4) The applicant will be allowed to appeal on the basis of this decision as affirmed by the procedure in Section 19(3) of this Act.

14. Exempt information from disclosure. – Subject to the provisions of this Act, a public body shall not be required to disclose exempt information.

15. International relations. – (1) Information may be exempt if its disclosure would be likely to cause grave and significant damage to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations, but not without explaining why.

(2) In this Section, “international relations” means relation between Pakistan and
(a) the government of any other foreign State; or

(b) an organization of which only States are members.

16. Disclosure harmful to law enforcement. – Information may be exempt if its disclosure is likely to

(a) result in the commission of an offence;

(b) harm the detection, prevention, investigation or inquiry in a particular case;

(c) reveal the identity of a person in a law enforcement record

(d) facilitate an escape from legal custody;

(e) harm the security of any property or system, including a building, a vehicle, a computer system or a communication system as long as the exemption of which does not harm public interest.

17. Privacy and personal information. – Information is exempt if its disclosure under this Act would involve the invasion of the privacy of an identifiable individual (including a deceased individual) other than the requester.

18. Economic and commercial affairs. – Information is exempt if and so long as its disclosure

(a) would be likely to cause grave and significant damage to the economy as a result of the premature disclosure of the proposed introduction, abolition of variation of any tax, duty, interest rate, exchange rate or any other instrument of economic management;

(b) would be likely to cause significant damage to the financial interests of the public body by giving an unreasonable advantage to any person in relation to a contract which that person is seeking to enter into with the public body for the acquisition or disposal of property or the supply of goods or services, or

(c) by revealing information to a competitor of the public body, would be likely to cause significant damage to the lawful commercial activities of the public body.

19. Recourse to the Mohtasib and Federal Tax Ombudsman and the Judiciary: – (1) If the applicant is not provided the information or copy of the record declared public record under section 7 within the prescribed time or the designated official refuses to give 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, or if a public record is wrongly declared classified or exempted, the applicant may, within thirty days of the last date of the prescribed time for giving such information or, as the case may be, 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 head of the public body and on failing to get the requested information from him within the prescribed time may file a complaint with the Mohtasib and in cases relating to Revenue Division, its subordinate departments, offices and agencies with the Federal Tax Ombudsman.

(2) The Mohtasib or the Federal Tax Ombudsman, as the case may be, 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. All such applications shall be disposed of within 14 days of being filed.

(3) The complainant may challenge the Mohtasib or the Federal Tax Ombudsman’s decision to classify or exempt a record in the High Court of competent jurisdiction and in the event of an adverse decision appeal to the Supreme Court.

20. Dismissal of frivolous, vexatious and malicious complaint. – Where a complaint instituted is found to be malicious, frivolous or vexatious, the complaint may be dismissed by Mohtasib, and fine may be imposed on the complainant up to an amount not exceeding ten thousands rupees.

21. Offences. – 1] Any person who  a) destroys a record which at the time it was destroyed was the subject of a request, or of a complaint with the intention of preventing its disclosure under this Act b) or obstructs access to a record

c) or interferes with the work of the monitoring body or falsifies information

commits an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or with fine, or with both.

2] The designated officer who, without reasonable excuse, fails or refuses to provide inspection or disclose records under Section 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Rs. 25,000.

22. Access not to Constitute Offence. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, any access to public information granted by any officer under this Act, or any action taken in good faith in the exercise or purported exercise of powers and duties conferred under this Act, shall not constitute an offence under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, or any other law for the time being in force.

23 .Whistleblowers. – 1] All individuals who discloses information will not be subjected to any legal, administrative or employment related sanction as long as they acted in good faith and in the reasonable belief that the information was substantially true and disclosed evidence of wrongdoing or a serious threat to public health, safety or the environment or a specific or substantial danger to public interests.

2] For purposes of sub-section [1], wrongdoing includes the commission of a criminal offence, failure to comply with a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, corruption or dishonesty, a serious maladministration regarding a public body and gross management.

3) For purposes of legitimate scrutiny, any individual mentioned in sub-section (1) shall be given affirmative protection against any legal, administrative or employment related sanction.

24. Act to Over-ride other laws. – The provisions of this Act shall override, anything contained in any other law for the time being in force.

25.  Repeal – The Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 stands hereby repealed

26. Power to remove difficulties. – If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Federal Government may, by order in the official Gazette, make such provision not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty, subject to ratification by Parliament.

27. Power to make rules. – (1) The Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, within one month of the enforcement of the Act, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.

(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 record;

(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

(d) the rules for this act must be formulated within 90 days of its passage.

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