Amendment bill in Right to Information Act is unconstitutional: TI

Pakistan Today

TI claims that it has received a complaint pertaining to the move by some senators.
ISLAMABAD: As the amendment in the Right of Access to Information would spare the parliament and attached departments from public access to information, the Transparency International (TI) Pakistan office has termed the Amendment Act, 2021, as unconstitutional, saying it would target the very essence of access to information.

The TI, in a letter to the Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, has claimed that it has received a complaint pertaining to the move by some senators, particularly regarding the clause which excluded the Parliament from the definition of public bodies.

It is pertinent to mention here that public bodies are bound to provide information to citizens, before the Senate.

This move is unconstitutional, it argued, stating that the act is against Article 19-A, and is similar to the Sections 4,5 and 7 of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued on 5 October 2007, during the rule of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) government. The previous effort had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on December 16, 2009, and if the current act is approved and promulgated, it will find itself facing the same fate as 2007 NRO, TI Pakistan says.

In the letter, Transparency International Pakistan Vice-Chairperson Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal said that the private bill on Right to Information (RTI) Law should be withdrawn so that the legislation ensures that every public institution provides citizens access to information.

It is pertinent here to mention that corruption in the public sector of Pakistan has increased for the second consecutive year, as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2020 last month ranked Pakistan at 124th out of 180 nations worldwide, down four places from 2019.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

The index has given a CPI 2020 score of 31 out of 100 to Pakistan, well below the CPI average of 43 for the year. While most countries made little to no progress in tackling corruption in almost a decade, more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 in this year’s report.

These countries failed to move the needle in any significant way to improve their score and combat public sector corruption, the report added.

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