ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting and National Heritage on Tuesday approved the Right to Information Bill 2013 with proposed amendments.
Senator Farhatullah Babar told the committee that the Upper House has already passed Right to Information Bill 2013 but the government has proposed amendments. After finalisation of discussion of amendments the bill was again referred to both the Houses for approval. He objected that the government’s proposal to pass this bill and not notify its implementation whenever it wished. He apprehended that the government will implement this bill in the last year of its tenure and will demand votes from the general public on this bill’s basis.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervaiz Rashid asked the committee to give a time frame for its implementation or to remove this clause totally. The minister said the main purpose of the delay for notification of the law is due to the establishment of proper infrastructure including purchase of a photocopier and other necessary equipments like offices and furniture etc. “We have no intention to implement this law in the fifth year of our tenure”, he clarified on which the committee rejected this point and vowed to implement the law when it was passed by both the houses.
The committee also suggested and approved amendments in the definition of Public Body. The names of Parliament and SC but it could not specify the NGOs that obtained funding from the government or other form of facilitation. The committee said that those NGOs who were directly or indirectly receiving funds or received in the past, any tax concession or given property or any other benefit was to be included in this law.
The committee also discussed in detail the Information Council and nomination of commissioners. The three commissioners will be appointed on a specific criterion. The first commissioner, the committee removed the words “only retired judge” and broadened the scope to include as “any retired civil servants of BPS 21/22”, persons that qualified as SC/HC judge. Federal government will appoint the first commissioner under the aforementioned criteria. Senate and NA standing committees on information and broadcasting will select the second and third commissioners. The fourth commissioner will be from a civil society including a media professional. The age limit for these commissioners has been increased from 62 to 65 years.
The committee also suggested forming a committee for removing complaints against these commissioners. A three-member committee suggested two MNAs and one senator, to submit recommendations to the federal government within 30 days after receiving any complaints against any commissioner and the federal government will also make a decision within 15 days.
The meeting was attended by Senator Saeed Ghani, Senator Dr Abdul Qayoom Soomro, Farhatullah Babar, Ms Farah Aqil, Shirala Malik, Daud Khan Achakzai, Zafar Ali Shah and Rubina Khalid.