The Punjab Information Commission has taken action regarding a recent incident involving the issuance of a summons to a citizen for filing an information request. The commission has ordered the DSP (Law) of Faisalabad Police to tender an unconditional written apology to the citizen for this action.
Additionally, the City Police Officer of Faisalabad has been directed to ensure that the DSP (Legal) withdraws the summons within three days of receiving the commission’s order.
The incident stems from a citizen, identified as Mr. Naeem Ahmed, who submitted an RTI application seeking public information related to police encounters in District Faisalabad from 2018 to 2022. The application also requested a certified copy of FIR #1040/23 dated 27.05.2023 from Police Station Peoples Colony and information on the status of the judicial inquiry in that case.
The PIO (Public Information Officer) of the office of the City Police Officer Faisalabad failed to disclose the requested information within the statutory period of 14 working days. As a result, a show cause notice was issued to the PIO through the City Police Officer, demanding the submission of two sets of certified copies of the required information for the commission’s next hearing.
Mehboob Qadir Shah, Chief Information Commissioner of the Punjab Information Commission, expressed concern over such incidents where authorities fail to disclose public information and instead initiate actions that cause harassment and deter citizens from exercising their fundamental right to information.
In the order, the commission emphasized that it has taken notice of such derogatory acts against citizens’ legal and constitutional rights, and in previous cases, the respective authorities withdrew the illegal orders, offered apologies, and disclosed the requested information.
The commission further highlighted that issuing a summons to a citizen in response to an RTI request is unlawful. Section 10(3) of the RTI Act 2013 explicitly prohibits authorities from inquiring about the reasons for a citizen’s information request.
The commission called for better knowledge of RTI law within the police department and suggested that the Inspector General of Police Punjab issue a circular letter to remind lower formations of their obligation to be well-versed in the RTI procedure and ensure the disclosure of information within the mandated 14 working days.
The City Police Officer of Faisalabad has been directed to ensure the withdrawal of the issued summons by the DSP (Legal) within three days of receiving the commission’s order. Moreover, the DSP (Legal) is required to tender an unconditional written apology to the citizen, with a copy to be endorsed to the commission. Failure to comply with the order within the specified period may result in action being taken against the DSP (Legal) under Section 15 of the RTI Act 2013.