ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has directed the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to public information about the retirement benefits permissible to the Chairman Joint Chief Staff Committee (CJCSC) and three star generals of the Pakistan Army and equivalent ranks of Navy and Air Force.
In pursuance of an appeal filed by Pakistan People Party’s General Secretary Farhat Ullah Babar, PIC released a detailed verdict and directed the MoD to provide the requested information to appellant. The commission also directed the ministry to publish the details on its web site as mentioned in the Act of the Parliament and the subordinate legislation governing retirement benefits of Army officers within 7 working days.
In July 2022, Farhat Ullah Babar requested the Secretary of MoD to provide information about the retirement benefits (along with copy of law/rules & regulations) permissible to the CJCSC, chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force and three star generals of the Army and equivalent ranks of Navy and Air Force.
He, on August 12, 2020, approached PIC to intervene for the provision of the requested information to him. MoD in response to the notice issued by PIC responded that the information requested by the applicant is excluded from the public record in terms of Section 7(e) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, therefore, it cannot be provided to the applicant.Section 7 (e) of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 is as under: “(e) Records relating to defense forces, defence installations or connected therewith and ancillary to defence an national security excluding all commercials and welfare activities”
PIC after the passage of One Year and Nine Months has announced order on the appeal and declared the requested information as public record.
PIC order states that this commission holds that the Act, Rules and Regulations governing retirement benefits are public records under not only the provisions of the Act, 2017, but also in line with the judgment of Supreme Court of Pakistan.
PIC maintains that Supreme Court of Pakistan has already settled whether Acts of the Parliament and subordinate legislation can be disclosed. In constitutional petition 39 of 2019, Juris Foundation through Chairman VS Federal Government through Secretary, Ministry of Defence, the Supreme Court said: “Acts of the Parliament or subordinate legislation are public documents and must be readily available to the citizen of the country subject to the exceptions provided under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017. Those exceptions extend only to record relating to defence forces, defence installations or connected therewith and ancillary to defence and national security, and not to the Army Laws”.
PIC order further states that the plea of the Respondent (MoD) that records governing retirement benefits of Army officers be treated as belonging to excluded records does not hold water on three grounds.
- These records pertain to categories of records to be proactively published under Section 5 (1) (b) and (e) of the Act, 2017.
- The Act, Rules and Regulations governing retirement benefits of Army officers have no nexus with defence preparedness.
- Act, Rules and Regulations governingretirement benefits of Army officers pertain to the welfare activities which are notexcluded under Section 7 (e)of the Act, 2017.