KARACHI: Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the provincial chief secretary to move the summary to the chief minister in order to take appropriate measures for the establishment of an information commission as well as a permanent secretariat in accordance with the law.
The direction came as a result of a petition from Tariq Mansoor who sought the establishment of Sindh Information Commission as per the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016.
The petitioner submitted that Article 19-A of the Constitution envisages that “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 the law,” claiming that the purpose of the Act is to provide transparency regarding the operations of every public authority by laying out a practical system for every citizen to secure access to information in a rapid and cost-effective manner, under the control of public authority.
Mansoor submitted that it is the responsibility of the government to establish an information commission within a period of 100 days from the commencement of the Act. The commission should be an independent statutory body and hold operational and administrative autonomy from any person or entity, including the government or any of its agencies, he added.
SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that the law was notified in the official gazette in 2017 and after a lapse of 100 days, the commission was to be constituted but no justification was put forward as to why information commission and its secretariat have not been established.
The additional secretary in the law department failed to offer a plausible response and suggested that the court may call secretary or additional secretary information. The court observed that public functionaries are obliged to redress the grievances of the citizens as envisaged by Article 4 of the Constitution, which extends protection under the law to every citizen whenever an inalienable right is violated as it amounts to a violation of fundamental rights.
The court also observed that every statutory body or public functionary is supposed to function honestly, in good faith and within the confines of their authority so that persons concerned are treated in accordance with the law.The court also directed that adequate funds be allocated to make the law functional with proper infrastructure.