Senate body recommends amendments in Right to Information Bill

ISLAMABAD – Senate’s Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Tuesday recommended a number of amendments in the draft Right to Information Bill 2013 aiming to improve and ensuring dissemination of smooth information to the people.

The meeting of the committee was chaired by Senator Kamil Ali Agha. The committee after debate abolished the provision of implementing the Right to Information Act only after the issuance of notification of the federal government (despite passage by the parliament and signatures of the president).

Senator Farhatullah Babar strongly objected the provision, saying the government must not be given the authority of implementing the right to information act to its choicest date. He said this is strange provision the government has no authority to link the implementation of the act with notification. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid said the government was sincere in introducing the right to information bill but departments must be given ample time to make infrastructure for prompt dissemination of information to the desiring persons.

He said a department should be given sufficient time to appoint a focal person and other infrastructure for disseminating the information to any desiring person. The committee recommended to include the clause compelling NGOs, getting funds from government's kitty to provide the required information to any person approaching for the same. The committee recommended that the chairman/member of Right to Information Commission should be a retired bureaucrat of grade 21 or 22, any person qualifying to be a judge of superior judiciary or former lawmaker.

The above mentioned should be recommended by Standing committees for information of both Senate and National Assembly. Another member should also be from among the person having known public service record including media professionals nominated by the standing committees of information of Senate and National Assembly. The committee also recommended changes in the removal process of chairman of the information commission.

The removal of chairman should be notified by federal government on recommendation of a three member parliamentary committee constituted by Senate Chairman and Speaker. The committee should have one member from Senate and two from the National Assembly. Any person can file no trust against the chairman of the commission. The parliamentary committee for removal of chairman should investigate the veracity of the allegations and report to federal government within 30 days.

The federal government should issue the notification of removal within 15 days. The chairman can file an appeal (against his removal) in the Islamabad High Court within 30 days. The meeting was attended by Senator Saeed Ghani, Senator Dr Abdul Qayoom Soomro, Farhatullah Babar, Farah Aqil, Shirala Malik, Daud Khan Achakzai, Zafar Ali Shah and Rubina Khalid.

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