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LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission asked the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) on Thursday to provide information sought by a woman lecturer about procedural details of the process of certain recruitment, merit list of selected candidates, including distribution of marks against various criteria as well as qualifying and total marks.

The order was passed on a complain by Attock Government College for Women Lecturer Saima Batool.

The commission declared that the PPSC needed to set very standards of transparency so as to further build public trust in the integrity of its systems.

In the instant case, the complainant was demanding greater transparency about details of marks awarded to qualifying candidates so that everyone interested could see for themselves how had different candidates performed in relation to each other.

The PPSC had not furnished any convincing argument as to how disclosure of relevant details might harm the privacy interest of a qualifying candidate. The argument that it would create an embarrassing situation, especially for females, was vague and far-fetched in a context where there were precedents of publications and wider circulation of gazettes of examination results by boards and universities. In any case, the information about CNICs and phone numbers could be excluded, while other information related to names, addresses, and details of marks awarded could be published.

The argument that public disclosure of details about qualifying candidates might result in disputes among different community groups was not tenable. In fact, it would be in public interest if member of a community group obtained evidence of any error or wrong-doing as a result of disclosure, and then proceeded against it in a lawful manner.

The whole purpose of transparency, as required by the law, was to ensure that decisions were made in full public view so that inefficiencies, if any, could be exposed and fixed. The PPSC must not underestimate the possibility that, as a result of disclosure, the candidates might be able to highlight weaknesses in the system or foul play on the part of other candidates, which the PPSC would not be able to otherwise notice or fix.

Similarly, the argument that the disclosure might result in increased litigation could not be made a basis for denying the fundamental right of access to information. It was a right of each and every individual to approach appropriate forums for grievance redressed.

The commission ordered the PPSC to provide the requested information to the complainant, excluding CNIC numbers and phone numbers where applicable, as soon as possible but not later than July 18, and ensure proactive publication of detailed marks awarded to qualifying candidates against the approved/ advertised criteria within three months from the date of issuance of this order.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016