Climate Change Ministry Ordered To Submit Information About Inquiries Against EPA
The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has ordered the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) to provide the information requested under the Right of Access to Information Act, commonly known as RTI law within ten working days.
Taking action on an appeal filed against the Ministry of Climate Change for not sharing the information about the inquiries conducted in MOCC against the officials of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA), within the stipulated time frame in the law.
According to the judgment, the PIC has received an appeal on September 23, 2019, stating that MOCC was requested under the Right of Access to Information Act 2017 (RAIA) on August 30, 2019, to provide certified information about the inquiries conducted against the officials of Pak-EPA in MOCC, but the MOCC did not provide the requested information within the stipulated time period in the law.
The PIC issued a notice to MOCC late September and later also fixed the appeal for hearing on December 16, 2019. However, the ministry neither replied to the notice nor appeared in the hearing before the commission.
The PIC in its decision has stated that the requested information falls within Section 5 (i) of the (RAIA) which requires all federal public bodies to share such information on their website, including performance reports, audit reports, evaluation reports, inquiry or investigation reports and others that have been finalized.
The commission noted with grave concern that the respondent did not provide the requested information to the citizen within a maximum of 20 working days of the receipt of information request and thus failed to implement Section 14 (1) and (2) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.
Moreover, the commission has directed the MOCC to provide finalized enquiry reports conducted against the officials of the Pak-EPA. Moreover, the MOCC has also been directed to take immediate steps to proactively share this information through its website, including all categories of information mentioned in Section 5 of the RAIA and submit compliance report to the commission by January 26, 2020.
According to the Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan and The Right of Access to Information Act 2017, any citizen has the right to access information and records held by public bodies, subject to some restrictions.
Pakistan Information Commission deals with the complaints where the federal department does not provide the information to the citizen requested under the Right of Access to Information Act 2017. It was established in Nov 2018, and has received more than 230 complaints and more than 100 of them have been resolved.
Earlier, the PIC has also issued an order against the Pak-EPA – which is an attached department of MOCC – directing them to provide the information regarding the monitoring visits and fines imposed to environmental law violators.
According to Section 14 of the RAIA, a public body shall be required to respond to an information request as soon as possible and in any case within ten working days of receipt of the request.