Right to Information

FIRs registered under PECA Act are public documents; PIC rules

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has ruled that under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, the First Information Report (FIR) registered under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA Act) is a public document and the concerned agencies are bound to public copies of the FIRs.

In pursuance of an appeal filed by this scribe, PIC on Friday issued a detailed verdict. It directed the Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to public copies of the FIRs registered under the PECA Act 2016, after excluding private information if any.

PIC maintains that the RTI Act envisages a situation where in a document, which should be otherwise made public but its parts may contain exempted information. In such cases, part(s) containing information to be exempted can be severed, or, excluded from the document as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017. However, in such a scenario, the public body must cite specific reason(s) for invoking the particular exemption clause of the Act, 2017.

PIC holds that merely because certain portions in an FIR may contain private information about an identifiable individual, it does not mean that an FIR can be entirely exempted from making it public.

PIC ordered the FIA’s CCW to provide certified copies of the FIRs to the appellant registered so far, along with the details of the current status of each FIR, as well as proactively publish all these FIRs on its website in light of observations of this commission.

It is pertinent to mention that FIA’s CCW in its response submitted to PIC refused to share the copies of the FIRs with this scribe and stated that as per the description of Section 16 (b)(c) (f) (g) of RTI Act 2017 any information that invades or reveals the privacy of any individual cannot be shared.

In another order on the appeal of this scribe, authored by Chief Information Commissioner, Mohammad Azam, FIA’s CCW has been directed to provide information about the total number of complaints received under Section 20 of PECA Act 2016 so far, also provide the total number of the complaints decided so far.

The public body is also directed to the public the total complaint received to the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing since its establishment, the total number of FIRs registered and the total number of the complaints currently in progress.

The Commission expressed concerns over the non-serious attitude of the FIA’s CCW, despite providing multiple opportunities and conducting multiple hearings the respondent neither submitted any written argument nor attended any hearing.

Saddia Mazhar

Saddia Mazhar, an accomplished Investigative Journalist hailing from District Sahiwal, Punjab, possesses a fervor for unveiling impactful narratives. With a demonstrated history of hosting radio shows, web TV programs, contributing to esteemed publications, and steering digital media platforms, she stands as a notable figure in the field. Connect with her on Twitter @SaddiaMazhar. She can be contacted at thesaddia@gmail.com
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