The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act was passed by the Punjab Assembly in December 2013. The main objective of this Act is: “To enforce the fundamental right of access to information in all matters of public importance…”.
It is considered as an effective law, based on its contents and provisions -- which take into account RTI principles. These principles are: maximum disclosure; proactive disclosure (providing information without a request); defined and limited exceptions; defined procedures; appeals mechanism (for enforcement of law and to handle citizens’ complaints); and promotional measures.
This law has been assessed as ‘strong’ by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), Canada and Access Info Europe (AIE). Although, their ranking does not include sub-national laws, but using their framework for scoring RTI laws (based on RTI principles), Punjab Transparency and RTI law is scored over 123 points, out of maximum 150 points.
It is, however, important to stress that having a good law is just a first step; proper implementation of the law determines its actual effectiveness, which requires lot more effort.
Citizens’ rights under the law
Who can access: Proactively disclosed information (through websites, brochures) is available for everyone, while for reactive disclosure (on-demand) of specific information, you will have to submit an RTI application to the concerned public information officer. Under the law, any Pakistani citizen or a legal person (registered/incorporated entity) can submit RTI applications.
Type of information: You can get any information that is not exempt from disclosure under section 13 of the Act. Information that you can access includes, among others, the following:
- The laws, rules, bye-laws and regulations by which a public body operates;
- The budget of a public body – both allocated funds and actual expenditures;
- Tenders and contract awards;
- Services provided, process and official fees (if any) for obtaining those services;
- Annual and other reports; and
- Any other information not exempt under section 13 of the Act.
You may seek any information including, but not limited to, a memo, book, design, map, contract, representation, order notification, plan, accounts statement, project proposal, photograph, audio, video, any instrument prepared through electronic process, or any machine-readable document.
You can access the disclosable information in any physical form (printed or electronic; you will need to specify this in your RTI application). You can also seek to inspect any document or work, take notes or extracts or get sample of any material in official custody. Remember: There is no fee for requesting information, but you may be charged for photocopying, CDs etc.
Information exempt from disclosure under the law: This is because disclosure of some types of information could cause harm, for example to national security, the economy, Pakistan’s relations with another country, or violate someone’s right to privacy (e.g. personal bank accounts, health record). However, no exception is absolute and the Commission can order access to exempt information if it determines that the benefits of disclosure outweigh the potential harm.
Information available without RTI request / proactive disclosure: The proactive disclosure of information (to be easily available in public domain -- through websites, brochures, office displays) is specified in section 4 of the Act. Click here for further information.
Tip for you! Before submitting an RTI request, check if the information has already been disclosed by the public body.
Click here for RTI guides and forms