Islamabad: The Members of the Senate Committee have unanimously adopted the bill for citizens Right to Information. After a clause by clause review, all members gave green signal for the bill. RTI bill after approval from the senate and national assembly will replace the current information law at federal level which is adopted through freedom of information ordinance 2002.
The Chairman of the committee Senator Farhatullah Babar in media briefing said, in case a person is abducted and killed by security agencies, the agencies will no longer be able to use ‘national security’ as an excuse not to provide information on the matter. He further Said, “The bill will grant the common man greater access to information.”
He said that information not shared with the public will be obtainable through an appeal to an independent appellate body.
“In order for any piece of information to remain withheld from the public, some steps will need to be taken,” the senator explained.
“The authorized officer will have to explain in writing why the information should not be made public.”
“If there is corruption in a security organization , that information will [also] be brought forward,” Babar assured.
A three-member commission with the power to order public bodies to disclose information and provide records will be formed to hear RTI requests.
The commission will entertain requests for records from the past 20 years, as records older than 20 years will automatically pass in the public domain.
Prime Minister will appoint members to the commission, which is expected to comprise one member of civil society, one from the bureaucracy, and one from the judiciary.
“In the name of national security, citizens have not been granted access to a lot of information,” noted Senator Farhatullah Babar.
“It will no longer be possible to withhold critical information just because it has been arbitrarily decided that it is secret or sensitive,” he said.
The Bill will be presented to the Parliament for further process of making it as an Act.