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LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission has declared that the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) do not prevent disclosure of police diaries in situations where the record has no relevance to a criminal matter in a court, or where the requirements of administration of justice have already been fulfilled and the matter is no longer pending in a court of law.

It is because the applicability of section 172 of CrPC (that disallows sharing of this information with people), is limited to court proceedings for the purpose of administration of justice, and its scope cannot be expanded to unrelated or closed matters, the commission has declared.

The observation came on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by Masood Ahmad of Attock, seeking a direction to the police of his district to give him information that included certified copies of FIR No 73, application for istaghasa (prosecution), statements of witnesses, and comments of the officers of the Revenue Department.

The police department had earlier pleaded that it was not authorised under section 172 of the CrPC to give copies of the requisite documents including daily diaries of the case to the accused person or his agents. The information was also exempted from disclosure under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, it maintained.

The commission has already held in the past that provisions of the Police Rules 1934 cannot be relied upon to deny access to information, and that it can only be withheld if its disclosure will or is likely to cause harm to interests mentioned in the right to information Act.

As for section 13(1)(f) of the Act is concerned, it cannot be broadly interpreted to deny a vast range of police investigation records to the general public as, in letter and spirit, it requires the public information officer to carefully assess and determine whether the disclosure of requested information or a part thereof would materially affect the prevention or detection of crime or administration of justice.

Disposing of the application, the commission has declared that where the police investigation has been completed and the challan submitted, it is hard to imagine that the disclosure of relevant records can harm the public interest in the prevention or detection of crimes, especially when the relevant records are to be pursued in an open court of law.

“Even if there exists such a justification the public information officer must carefully identify the relevant piece of information and then exclude it from disclosure in accordance with section 13(2) of the Act, after passing a reasoned order. In view of the foregoing discussion and the material produced before the commission, it seems quite clear that the requested information, other than the police diaries, is clearly not exempt from disclosure,” the commission has declared.

While partially allowing the petition, the commission has declared that police may withhold the police diaries until the court has completed its proceedings but they are directed to disclose all of the remaining information sought by the complainant as soon as possible but not later than Nov 30, and submit a compliance report to the Commission.

Published in Dawn November 16th, 2016