The Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Mirpur Circuit has accepted a writ petition demanding the enforcement of the Right to Information in Azad Kashmir. Justice Sardar Ejaz Khan, presiding over the case, admitted the petition for regular hearing.
Notices have been issued to the respondents, including the government of AJ&K, Chief Secretary, Minister of Law, Minister of Information, Secretary of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Secretary of Information, DG Press Information Department of AJK, and others, instructing them to submit written statements before the next hearing on July 18, 2023.
The petition, titled “Zafar Mughal etc. vs. Azad Govt. and others,” was accepted after preliminary arguments were presented, and notices were subsequently issued to all parties concerned.
To fulfill the constitutional requirements of the AJ&K Interim Constitution of 1974, the 13th Constitutional Amendment introduced Paragraph XXII under Article 4, declaring the Right to Information as a fundamental right.
The Government of AJ&K and the State Legislative Assembly have been urged to enact the Right to Information Act and establish rules and regulations for an Information Commission/Tribunal, along with relevant appointments in government institutions.
This will ensure that journalists, lawyers, and the general public can lawfully access information from government departments.
The writ petition, filed in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Mirpur Circuit, emphasizes the significance of freedom of expression and access to accurate information as fundamental human rights, recognized by the United Nations Charter of Demand 1948 and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 (Article 19-A).
However, the current government and Legislative Assembly of AJ&K have not fully implemented the constitutional provision of the Right to Information Act, including the establishment of an Information Tribunal/Commission and the appointment of Public Information Officers in government and semi-government institutions. This lack of implementation hampers transparency efforts and promotes corruption.
Senior Kashmiri journalist Zafar Mughal and senior Kashmiri jurist Qazi Adnan Qayyum Advocate represented the petitioners in the High Court of AJ&K Circuit Mirpur.
The court has ordered the respondents to submit written statements, affidavits, and related documents to facilitate the implementation of the Right to Information law in AJK. The writ petition remains under consideration in the High Court Mirpur Circuit.
The petition highlights that, despite the presence of access to information laws at the federal and provincial levels in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir lags behind in implementing its own Right to Information Act. As a result, journalists, lawyers, and the general public face difficulties in obtaining accurate information and disseminating it to the public, leading to non-compliance with constitutional and legal requirements.
Furthermore, officials from AJK government and semi-government institutions often refuse to provide accurate information, thereby violating the constitution. This lack of access to correct information hampers the work of journalists and deprives the public of crucial awareness.
Consequently, a writ petition titled “Zafar Mughal etc. vs. Azad Govt. etc.” has been filed in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Mirpur Circuit, seeking access to accurate information, the enforcement of the Right to Information Act, and the establishment of relevant authorities, rules, and regulations.
The appointment of public information officers in government and semi-government institutions is also emphasized to ensure the effective exercise of the fundamental right to access information, enabling journalists and lawyers to enhance their professional skills and provide accurate information to the public.