- By: Muhammad Faisal
In a democratic society, transparency and accountability are the bedrock principles. The Right to Information Act of 2013 of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa portrays them as a beacon for the people, granting them access to information held by public bodies. RTI is often regarded as a sphere of light that tends to illuminate and its radiation enables citizens to scrutinise the working of the government and the public bodies.
The RTI Act provides every Pakistani citizen with the authority to request information, excluding specific exemptions detailed within the Act. But how does one embark on this journey of seeking information? It is simple that any concerned individual, or citizen, under this act can simply make an information request from the designated official of the relevant public body by a written application or email. The application could be on the provided form or plain paper, clearly articulating the requested information and providing contact details.
The avenues for submission are diverse, offering the most convenient way possible so the citizen can request the information in an easy way possible. The information seeker can request information via postal service, fax, email, or the Electronic Right to Information (ERTI) facility available for specific districts, facilitating easy access to information.
However, the pivotal aspect is associated with the role of the designated official. They stand as a guiding force, assisting requesters in framing their requests and ensuring the proper submission of the information request application. Importantly, no justification shall be given when you request information and the request process is free of charge for most cases, except for nominal fees for reproducing and sending information beyond certain limits.
Furthermore, the RTI journey doesn’t conclude with the request submission. The disposal of information requests involves a structured process. Upon receipt, the designated official must promptly acknowledge the request and then either accept it or reject it on valid grounds as mentioned in the act. Reasons have been given and communicated well enough and the requester has the right to appeal against any decision.
Moreover, the Act sets a timeline of ten working days for the disposal of requests, which can be extended to twenty working days under certain circumstances. Importantly, information crucial to safeguarding life and liberty is expedited within two working days, highlighting the Act’s human-centric approach.
Once the information is provided, the mode of access is preferred as the requester has requested, ensuring reasonable accommodation without hindering the public body’s operation. Moreover, a certificate validating the accuracy and authenticity of the information is provided, ensuring trust and reliability.
But what if the requester doesn’t receive the requested information, and the process goes awry? Well, in this case the citizens are not left adrift,the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission serves as the guardian of transparency. A dissatisfied requester or citizen can lodge a complaint free of charge, with the commission.
The commission ensures timely resolution within 60 days, placing the onus on public bodies to justify their decisions. Giving the requester more and more opportunities to get the information they want.
So the RTI act embodies the essence of democracy, empowering citizens with the tools to question, engage, and hold public bodies accountable..
It’s not merely about accessing information; it’s about fostering a culture of transparency and enabling informed citizenry.
The Act not only offers a pathway to information but also stands as a beacon of good
governance and citizen empowerment