Right to Information

Punjab Govt. De-notifies Members of Punjab Information Commission

ISLAMABAD: The Government of Punjab has removed all three members of the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) on February 13, 2023, The Reporters learnt.

The Chief Information Commissioner, Mahboob Qadir Shah, and Information Commissioners Shaukat Ali and Dr. Arif Mushtaq were de-notified with immediate effect by the Information and Culture Department of Punjab, on the directions of the Chief Minister.

However, the notification regarding the de-notification of Information Commissioner Mr. Shaukat Ali was later withdrawn on February 14, 2023.

Mr. Mahboob Qadir Shah, who was appointed as Chief Information Commissioner, PIC on May 09, 2018, was given a three-year extension on June 18, 2021, after an amendment in the law.

On the other hand, Dr. Arif Mushtaq was appointed as Information Commissioner on January 21, 2022.

It is worth noting that the government has not followed the procedure outlined in “The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013” for the removal of the information commissioners. The procedure for the removal of the members of the information commission is defined in Section 5(8) to 5(12) of the act, which is as under;

“5(8) Subject to subsections (9), (10) and (11), a Commissioner shall be liable to removal on grounds of misconduct or physical or mental incapacity.

(9) Before removing a Commissioner, the Government shall communicate the charges to the Commissioner and afford him reasonable opportunity to explain his position.

(10) If the Government is not satisfied with the defence offered, it may refer the case to Provincial Assembly of the Punjab for an open enquiry by a Special Committee to be constituted by the Provincial Assembly.

(11) If the Committee finds the Commissioner guilty of any of the charges mentioned in subsection (8), the Government shall remove the Commissioner.

(12) If Provincial Assembly of the Punjab is dissolved and the situation mentioned in subsection (8) has arisen, the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly shall constitute a special committee and such special committee may exercise the powers of special committee of the Provincial Assembly until the election of the new Provincial Assembly.”

Civil Society Organizations Condemn Removal of Information Commissioners:

Several civil society organizations have criticized the removal of the members of the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) and described the notifications as illegal.

Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, former Information Commissioner, PIC, stated it is an illegal order/ notification. It is in blatant violation of Section 5(8) to 5(12) of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. Law is very clear, with no ambiguity at all. Chief Minister has no power to issue any such direction without first conducting an inquiry on specified grounds (mental/ physical inability or misconduct) and referring the matter to a committee of the Punjab Assembly.

Anwar Yousafzai, Executive Director, CGPA, stated it is blatant attack on independence statuary status of the commission. If such removal becomes a norm, no information will decide freely on appeals/complaints.

Petition Filed in LHC Against De-notification of PIC Members

A petition has been lodged with the Lahore High Court contesting the de-notification of the members of the Punjab Information Commission (PIC). The plea will be heard by a five-member bench on Thursday. The petition challenges the legality of the de-notification of the members and seeks redressal.

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