LAHORE: Punjab Chief Information Commissioner Mazhar Husain Minhas has declared that the working paper and minutes of a departmental promotion committee (DPC) are not classified documents and should be provided on demand under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

He passed the order on a complaint of Punjab Assembly Additional Secretary Faizul Basit, seeking direction to the assembly to provide him the working paper and minutes of a DPC meeting pertaining to the promotion of its special secretary, Muhammad Shafique Adil.

The applicant had stated that he had sought from the assembly’s senior secretary documents pertaining to the promotion of Mr Adil including copies of order of promotion, working paper, minutes of the DPC meeting and grounds/reasons of his own supersession.

The applicant had submitted that he was not given copies of the working paper and minutes of the DPC meeting on the grounds that they were classified and privileged documents in terms of Section 13 of The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. He had stated that he had also filed internal review but the copies were not again given.

In response to the notice issued by the information commissioner, the respondent reiterated his earlier position that the working paper as well as the minutes of the DPC meeting were classified and privileged documents exempt from disclosure.

While deciding the case, the information commissioner declared that prior to the enactment of the right to information law, a person was not entitled to have access to any public information unless it was specifically allowed by the competent authority, but through the Act, the position had entirely changed.

“Now, there is nothing confidential or secret from the public who are owner of every information and a citizen of Pakistan can have access to any public information unless it is exempt under section 13 of the Act,” the commissioner declared.

He declared that Section 2(f) of the Act defined “Information” as any information held by a public body and included any memo, book, design, map, contract, representation, pamphlet, brochure, order, notification, document, plans, letter, report, accounts statement, project proposal, photograph, audio, video, drawing, film, any instrument prepared through electronic process, machine readable documents, and any other documentary material regardless of its physical form or characteristics.

‘The working paper as well as the minutes of the meeting of DPC are recorded in due process of law and are fully covered by the definition of “information” reproduced above and are not hit by any of the exceptions contained in section 13 of the Act ibid.

“Under section 24, the provisions of this Act have precedence over the provisions of all other laws, therefore, even if the documents in question have been declared classified in any other law that prohibition is of no legal effect.’’

He directed the respondent to provide the requisite information to the complainant within seven days of receipt of this order under intimation to his office.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2014