Pakistan Information Commission has fixed September 16 to hear the registrar Supreme Court’s application filed through attorney general for Pakistan, urging review of the Commission’s power to seek information from the top court in response to an appeal of an information seeker in a matter.
In April 2019, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, a citizen and RTI activist, had sought information from registrar of the Supreme Court about the recruitment for different positions in the top court while asking for total sanctioned strength of staff members, number of positions lying vacant, recruitment of regular and contractual staff, the positions created from January 2017 onward, female staff, disabled employees and the transgender employed.
The information seeker has invoked the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Information Commission which served notices to the top court Registrar. In response to the second notice in the matter, the respondent informed that top court had sent a letter to the Senate and National Assembly during 2014 in which the parliament was reminded about the separation of the judiciary from the executive and that the “Constitution doesn’t envisage oversight in any form/ manner by any other institution/ organ of the State on the functioning of the Courts.” Also, the SC judgment reported as Government of Sindh vs Sharaf Faridi (PLD 1994 SC 105) regarding separation of power was referenced.
The information seeker was dissatisfied with the response on the grounds that the top court letter didn’t address the question raised by him. He said the referred judgment is essentially about the separation of power but it doesn’t specifically rule on the applicability of citizens’ right to information on courts. Also, the fact remains that the judgment was passed before the insertion of Article 19-A in the Constitution in 2010 through the Constitutional Amendment and the later enactment of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.
The judiciary’s independence is ensured by the Constitution, the information seeker contended in his response to the top court letter saying it shouldn’t be construed to mean “judiciary is not accountable and responsive to citizens of the country who have created all institutions through legislations enacted by their elected representatives and who are to exercise authority as a sacred trust.”
After hearing arguments of the information seeker, the Commission issued directives to the top court’s Registrar to share the information with the information seeker within 20 working days besides notifying the Public Information Officer of the top court under Section 9 of the Act. The Commission also said in its order to the Registrar to take steps to proactively share through the website all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the Act including for the people with disabilities.
Responding to the Commission’s directives, the registrar Supreme Court filed a review application through the Attorney General for Pakistan. The Pakistan Information Commission has issued notices to both the parties of the case and has fixed the matter for hearing on September 16.
The writer heads a leading news wire service ‘The Law Today Pakistan’ commonly known as TLTP. He has a special focus on news relating to superior courts adjudication, access to right of information, civil, political, social and economic rights under the approach that existing cyber regime realization ensures procedural fairness in administrative law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org