Women’s Action Forum says RTI Amendment Bill 2021 will curtail residents’ rights

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The Women’s Action Forum (WAF) on Sunday condemned Senator Waleed Iqbal and others’ motion in transferring the “Right of Access to Information (Amendment) Act, 2021” earlier than the Senate.

According to an announcement issued by the discussion board, the modification invoice goals to exclude the Senate, the National Assembly, their secretariats, committees and members from the definition of “public body”, contained in Section 2(ix)(c) of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

As per the “Statement of Objects and Reasons”, this modification invoice is premised on an incorrect understanding of the position of Parliament, as a public physique, in a democracy, and a deeply flawed understanding of Constitutional provisions, together with Article 69 of the Constitution, the assertion stated.

“In line with other regressive laws, rules and policies that have been recently introduced to curtail the rights to expression and information, this amendment bill similarly attempts to roll back the right to information, protected under Article 19A of the Constitution,” it additional learn.

The proper to data, safeguarded in Article 19A of the Constitution, clearly stipulates: “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law”.

In the Province of Punjab v. Qaisar Iqbal (PLD 2018 Lahore 198), the significance and scope of Article 19A was clearly set out by the Lahore High Court.

In paragraph 61, the Honourable Lahore High Court noticed: “Right to information and access to information in all matters of public importance is indisputably a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution. The right to information stems from the requirement that members of a democratic society should be sufficiently informed that they may influence intelligently the decision which may affect themselves”.

In suggesting that the Parliament, the Senate, their secretariats, committees and members be excluded from the scope of the 2017 Act, there’s a deliberate try being made to subvert the Constitutional assure contained in Article 19A, the assertion learn.

In the aforementioned case, the Lahore High Court explicitly said: “The people of Pakistan have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries and chosen representatives”.

If this regressive modification invoice just isn’t defeated, it is going to deprive residents of their proper to entry data.

“We [at the WAF] urge the Senate Standing Committee on Information, before which this bill will be placed on 15 February 2021, to reject this instrument,” the assertion learn.

“The Parliament cannot be excluded from the scope of the 2017 Act as without information from or relating to, the Parliament and Parliamentary debates, procedures and business, the citizens of Pakistan cannot make informed and responsible decisions regarding their collective future.”

“In fact, the enactment of this instrument would ensure further deterioration in the quality of political discourse, which would ultimately negatively impact the political participation of citizens in matters of public importance. The devastating impact of this on Pakistan’s already fragile democracy cannot be emphasized enough.”

As the important thing features of the Parliament embody lawmaking, figuring out the nationwide finances, dialogue on problems with public significance and concern, and monitoring and oversight, it’s illogical and unconstitutional to exclude it from the scope of the 2017 Act.

It is unlucky that as an alternative of respecting basic rights and abiding by the Constitution, this authorities chooses to supersede the Parliament by legislating through ordinances.

Its members routinely current payments to additional curtail rights assured by the Constitution.

“This amendment bill is yet another attempt to limit transparency and accountability with respect to State action. Parliament is accountable to the citizens of Pakistan. Therefore, we need greater transparency vis-à-vis its workings and decision-making at all levels,” the assertion additional stated.

No public consultant or a public physique needs to be above scrutiny and accountability. As is obvious from this move and related makes an attempt previous to it, accountability is one thing this Government appears to imagine others have to be subjected to however that its personal members can and needs to be excluded from the identical.

The WAF unequivocally condemns such selectivity and authoritarian strikes and accordingly calls for that this invoice be withdrawn instantly, the assertion concluded.