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LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission on Friday rejected a review petition by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) denying information to an applicant despite an earlier direction while relying on a Lahore High Court judgement.

The commission had on Jan 24 ordered the ACE to provide the required information to applicant Zafar Iqbal by Feb 6. The ACE filed a review petition before the commission stating that only attested copies of the final report, and not case file, could be provided in view of a Jan 18 order of the LHC on a writ petition.

In the order, LHC had asked the Punjab additional chief secretary to provide final report of an inquiry to the petitioner, but had disallowed provision of complete file of the inquiry in view of an assertion of the advocate general that the same was confidential under sub-rule 6, rule 10 of the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment Rules, 2014.

While rejecting the ACE review petition, the commission maintained that the LHC order was not brought to its attention during the hearing of the complaint.

After listening to the pleas by ACE officials, the commission was of the view that the LHC order was passed without proper assistance by counsel of the parties, as it relied upon Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment Rules 2014 and made no reference to Article 19-A of the Constitution and the fact that the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 had an overriding effect.

“It is, therefore, reiterated that access to information can only be denied if its disclosure is exempt under Section 13 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. In our view of the foregoing, the said order of the LHC applies only to the case in relation to which it was passed, as it doesn’t set broad principles for across the board application and thus can’t be relied upon to deny access to information sought under the Act in the instant case,” the commission maintained.

It directed the ACE to provide all the requested information to the complainant as soon as possible but not later than March 3. It also advised the ACE director general and the Punjab chief secretary to take immediate steps to initiate the process of amending provisions in laws and rules, which are inconsistent with Article 19-A of the Constitution and provisions of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017