Frequently Asked Questions

Information Seekers

 

Who can apply for information?Who can apply for information?
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Any citizen of Pakistan or an organization registered in Pakistan can apply for information under the Act.
   
Which departments or institutions I can seek information from?
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You can seek information from any department, attached department, organization, institution, court, tribunal, commission, office, board or a body established or funded by the Government of the Punjab.
   
Can I access information from private institutions or organizations?
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You can access information from those private institutions or organizations, which are substantially financed by the provincial or a local government.
   
What are the types of information that I can’t access?
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You can access any information from a pubic body, which is not exempt under section 13 of the Act. The exceptions relate to the records where disclosure of the information shall or is likely to cause harm to:
  • National defence or security, public order or international relations of Pakistan.
  • A legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information.
  • The protection of legally privileged information or of the rules relating to breach of confidence.
  • The legitimate commercial interests of a public body or a third party, including information subject to third party intellectual property rights.
  • The life, health or safety of any person.
  • The prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice.
  • The ability of the Government to manage the economy.
  • The effective formulation of or success of a policy either by its premature disclosure or by restraining the free and frank provision of advice within the Government.
The Commission, however, can even order disclosure of exempt information if it reaches the conclusion that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the protected interests.
   
How can I apply for information?
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You can write application for access to information on a plain paper or on an optional form developed and disseminated by the Commission. You should address your application to the public information officer (PIO) designated by the relevant public body. In your application, you must:
  • Precisely describe the information that you need.
  • Explain in which form you need access to information (e.g. photocopy, CD or an electronic copy, inspection of work/record etc.
  • Provide your contact details including postal address, telephone/cell number or, if available, email address
   
How do I know who is the PIO in a public body and how s(he) can be contacted?
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You should call any office of the relevant public body or visit its website to find out about the PIO and his/her contact details. You may also find contact details of the PIO on the website of the Commission.
   
What should I do if I can’t find out the contact details of the relevant PIO?
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If you can’t find out who is the PIO in the public body from which you need information, you can address and send your application to head of the public body in the related district or administrative unit. However, if you send your application directly to the PIO, you will be likely to get a quicker response.
   
What should a person do who is illiterate or disable and can’t write an application?
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A person who is disable or illiterate and can’t write an application, s(he) should approach the relevant PIO, who is duty bound under the law to provide necessary assistance to such a person.
   
Am I required to personally appear before a PIO to apply for the information that I need?
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No, you are not required to personally appear before the PIO to submit the application. You can submit your application in the following ways:
  • By Post: if you choose this method, you should preferably send your application by registered post. You should keep a copy of your application and the receipt as a proof that you have, indeed, applied for access to information.
  • By Email: You can apply by email if the relevant PIO has got an official e-mail address.
  • Personal submission: You can visit the office of the PIO and personally submit your application. In this instance, you must demand and get a receipt as a proof for the submission of your application.
   
Do I have to pay fee for obtaining information?
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No, you are not required to pay any fee at the time of submitting your application. However, if your application for access to information is accepted, the PIO may communicate to you the actual cost of reproducing the information that you had requested. The cost of reproducing and providing information will be calculated and should be paid strictly in accordance with the Schedule of Costs notified by the Commission.
   
How long it takes the PIO or a public body to provide the requested information?
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Ordinarily, the PIO must decide your application and provide you the requested information within 14 working days of the receipt of your application. However, the PIO can extend the duration by another 14 days if he needs to consult a third party, or if the requested information has to be collected from multiple offices or searched from extensive records. If the PIO extends the response time, he must inform you about it. If the requested information is about the life and liberty of a person, the PIO shall provide it to you within 2 working days. However, it shall take a little longer if you sent your application to an officer other than the PIO. In such a case, the above-mentioned time limits shall start from the date the PIO gets the application after having been transferred by the officer who originally received it.
   
Can a PIO or public body deny my access to information by referring to other laws or rules under laws other than the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013?
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No, the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013 takes precedence over all other laws. Therefore, no other law or rules can be relied upon to deny access to information sought under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013. However, access to information can be denied if it is hit by any of the exceptions mentioned in section 13 of the Act.
   
What can I do if I don’t get the requested information within the prescribe time or if I have another grievance?
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In case of a grievance, you have 2 options:
 
Option A
Within 60 days since the cause of your grievance, you can approach the head of the relevant public body and seek internal review against: 
  • A failure by the public information officer to comply with any provision of the Act including failure to communicate decision within the specified time.
  • Unreasonable behaviour by the public information officer in the exercise of any discretion under the Act.
  • Provision of incomplete, misleading or false information under the Act.
  • Any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to information.
  • The head of the public body shall decide your request for internal review within 14 days.
Option B 
If you don’t want to apply for internal review or if you are not satisfied with the result of internal review, you can approach the Commission with your complaint on any of the following grounds:
  • Wrongful denial of access to information.
  • Non provision of information within the stipulated time.
  • Refusal to receive and process the request from an applicant.
  • Furnishing false, misleading or incomplete information.
  • Charging fee or cost for provision of information in excess of the requisite fee.
  • Deliberate destruction of information to avoid its disclosure.
  • Failure of a public body to implement the provisions regarding proactive disclosure.
  • Violation of any other provision of the Act by a public body.
The Commission shall decide your complaint within 30 days of its receipt or, for good reasons to be recorded in writing, within sixty days.
   
What is the procedure of internal review or a complaint to the Commission?
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You should first decide whether you want to file an internal review to head of the public body or complaint to the Commission. You must NOT approach the two forums concurrently. Whichever forum you choose to approach for the redress of your grievance, you can write your application on a plain paper by including the following information:
  • Describe the nature of your grievance in sufficient detail. Also please attach, if available, any supporting documents such as a copy of your original application, evidence of submission of application (e.g. copy of the postal receipt) and copies of correspondence with the PIO or another officer, etc.
  • Clearly spell out the relief that you need through internal review or from the Commission. You may also include your arguments or furnish evidence in support of the relief that you are seeking.
  • Provide your contact details including postal address, cell phone number and, if available, email address.
   
What should I do if I don’t get the requested information despite a favorable order obtained as a result of internal review or complaint to the Commission?
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It is a legal responsibility of the PIO and/or of the public body to implement orders of the Commission unless a higher court sets the same aside. However, if such a situation arises, you can approach the Commission, which can then proceed against the relevant officer(s) under section 15 and/or section 16 of the Act.
   

Information Providers

Who can apply for information?
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Any citizen of Pakistan or an organization registered in Pakistan can apply for information under the Act.
   
Who can be a public information officer (PIO)?
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A public body can designate one or more officers of grade 16 or above as PIOs. In order to avoid the possibility of frequent changes due to transfers, promotions and retirements, the Commission has held that PIOs should be designated by post, NOT by name.
   
Can a PIO decide applications for access to information himself or he will need approval of competent authority?
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A designated PIO is himself competent to decide any application for access to information. He is not required to seek consent or approval of his senior officer. In fact, by seeking consent or approval of his senior, he may be committing abdication of responsibility on his part and causing a conflict of interest situation for his senior, who may later be involved in deciding requests for internal review by aggrieved applicants.
   
What should a PIO do if the requested information is not held in the offices of the public body that he is responsible for?
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If the requested information relates, wholly, to another public body or an administrative unit for which the PIO is not responsible for, he should transfer the application to the PIO in the relevant public body or administrative unit and inform the applicant accordingly.
If the requested information relates, partially, to another public body or an administrative unit for which the PIO is not responsible for, he should decide the application as far as it relates to him. For the remaining part, he should transfer the application to the PIO in the relevant public body or administrative unit and inform the applicant accordingly.
 
However, if the PIO doesn’t know and can’t find out the contact details of the PIO in the other administrative unit or public body, he should return the application to the applicant and inform him that (a) requested information doesn’t relate to the offices of his responsibility; and (b) he doesn’t know the PIO in the relevant administrative unit or the public body and, therefore, he can’t transfer the application under section 11 of the Act.
   
What are steps that a PIO should take on receipt of an application for access to information?
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The PIO is expected to take the following steps
  • He should register the application in a separate register meant for applications received under the Act. 
  • If the application has been submitted personally or through a representative of the applicant, the PIO should acknowledge its receipt to the applicant or his representative.
  • If the application has been received by post or through email, the PIO should acknowledge its receipt by a return letter or email, and keep its record in the relevant file.
  • The PIO should review the application and evaluate whether the information can be made accessible or whether it is hit by any of the exceptions provided in section 13 of the Act. The PIO may need to first examine the requested information or records in the process of making the decision.
  • If the requested information is not hit by any of the exceptions provided in section 13 of the Act; and no payment of cost of reproducing the requested information is required in the light of Schedule of Costs notified by the Commission, the PIO should simply certify and send the requested information to the applicant. If the applicant is required to pay cost, the PIO must inform the applicant about the acceptance of his application and the amount that he has to pay prior to provision of information. The PIO must also explain how the payable cost can be paid and how the requested information can be collected by or sent to the applicant.
  • If the relevant public body holds only a part of the requested information Or if the PIO allows only a partial access, he shall supply that part of the information as per the guidelines given in (e) above. However, the PIO must communicate to the applicant in writing the reasons due to which the remaining part of the information can’t be provided. In such an instance, the PIO will also explain to the applicant the procedure of internal review and of complaint to the Commission against his decision.
  • If the PIO wholly denies the application for access to information, he shall pass a speaking order to explain the reasons of such a denial, and will send it to the applicant. In this instance too, the PIO will explain, in writing, to the applicant the procedure of internal review and of complaint to the Commission against his decision.
  • The PIO shall deposit in the relevant Bank accounts the costs of reproducing information that he may have recovered from the applicants in cash. He shall also provide a duly signed and stamped receipt of such a payment to the applicant.
   
What should a PIO do when requested information relates to the offices that he is responsible for, but he can’t provide timely access due to non-cooperation of other officers who have the relevant record in their custody?
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Under the Act, a PIO can seek assistance from any officer in the offices or public body for which he is responsible. An officer whose assistance was sought will be deemed to be a PIO for the purpose of instant application and will be liable for any violations of the Act. The PIOs should preferably seek assistance from other officers in writing and make such requests a part of the record.
   
What are the types of information that an applicant can access?
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An applicant can access any information from a pubic body, which is not exempt under section 13 of the Act. The exceptions relate to the records where disclosure of the information shall or is likely to cause harm to:
  • National defence or security, public order or international relations of Pakistan
  • A legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information
  • The protection of legally privileged information or of the rules relating to breach of confidence
  • The legitimate commercial interests of a public body or a third party, including information subject to third party intellectual property rights
  • The life, health or safety of any person
  • The prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice
  • The ability of the Government to manage the economy
  • The effective formulation of or success of a policy either by its premature disclosure or by restraining the free and frank provision of advice within the Government
The Commission, however, can even order disclosure of exempt information if it reaches the conclusion that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the protected interests.
   
What are the responsibilities of a PIO other than disposal of applications for access to information?
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Other than disposal of applications for access to information, a PIO is responsible for the following:
  • Implementation of section 4 of the Act about proactive disclosure by disseminating maximum information through notice-boards, publications and websites
  • Creation of public awareness about the Act and how people can access information
  • Provision of assistance to the illiterate and disabled who may not be able to write down their applications
  • Making efforts for improved and more efficient management of records including through computerization and online information management systems
  • Submission of periodic reports, including an annual report, to the Commission, as per the formats or requirements of the Commission.
   
Can a PIO require an applicant to personally appear to apply for the information that he needs?
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No, an applicant is not required to personally appear before the PIO to submit the application. He can submit his application in the following ways:
  • By Post: An application received by post, whether registered or ordinary, will be treated as validly submitted application
  • By Email: A person can apply by email if the relevant PIO has got an official e-mail address
  • Personal submission: A person or his representative can visit the office of the PIO and submit his application. In this instance, a PIO shall issue a receipt as a proof for the submission of his application.
   
Is an applicant required to pay fee for obtaining information?
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No, an applicant is not required to pay any fee at the time of submitting his application. However, if his application for access to information is accepted, the PIO may communicate to him the actual cost of reproducing the information that he had requested. However, the cost of reproducing and providing information will be calculated and should be paid strictly in accordance with the Schedule of Costs notified by the Commission.
   
How long it should take the PIO or a public body to provide the requested information?
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Ordinarily, the PIO must decide an application and provide the requested information to the applicant within 14 working days of the receipt of application. However, the PIO can extend the duration by another 14 days if he needs to consult a third party, or if the requested information has to be collected from multiple offices or searched from extensive records. If the PIO extends the response time, he must inform the applicant about it.
If the requested information is about the life and liberty of a person, the PIO shall provide it to the applicant within 2 working days.
   
Can a PIO or public body deny access to requested information by referring to laws or rules under laws other than the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013?
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No, the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013 takes precedence over all other laws. Therefore, no other law or rules can be relied upon to deny access to information sought under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013. However, access to information can be denied if it is hit by any of the exceptions mentioned in section 13 of the Act.
   
Can a PIO require applicant to personally appear to collect the requested information?
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No, a PIO should not necessarily require the applicant to personally come to his office to collect the information. Ordinarily, the requested information should be sent out by post or, if possible, by email, or in the manner as may have been requested by the applicant. In exceptional circumstances, for example where the applicant may need to identify the record that he needs, the PIO may suggest the applicant to personally visit the office of the PIO to accurately identify the record to avert, among others, higher costs of reproducing information.