The Punjab Information Commission has directed the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) of Multan to provide copies of complaints and closed inquiries to the applicant, Shakeel Baloch, considering the documents as public information.
Initially, ACE Multan had refused to provide the requested information, citing potential harm to the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice.
In its decision, the commission warned the ACE Multan Public Information Officer of a penalty under Section 15 of the Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 if the information is not provided within 7 days.
The commission emphasized that the RTI Act 2013 does not require citizens to enclose copies of their CNIC (computerized national identity card) with their RTI requests unless the complainant’s citizenship is challenged.
The complainant had sought disclosure of information related to complaints against various departments, including district councils, parks and horticulture authorities, municipal committees, provincial highways, building, irrigation, and public health departments.
Partial information was provided to the complainant, but ACE refused to provide hard copies of closed complaints, dropped inquiries, and related applications.
The commission further stated that the requirement of prior approval from authorities under the ACE Rules is no longer a legal barrier, as the fundamental right to information of Pakistani citizens is acknowledged and enforced through primary and constitutional provisions of law.
Moreover, the commission highlighted that a complaint is equivalent to a First Information Report (FIR), which is considered a public document according to the Supreme Courts of Pakistan and India.
The commission’s order on May 7, 2021, also declared FIRs as public records. The commission consisted of Chief Information Commissioner Mehboob Qadir Shah, Commissioner I Dr. Arif Mushtaq, and Commissioner II Shaukat Ali. This decision by the Punjab Information Commission is a significant development in the ongoing efforts to promote transparency and accountability in Pakistan.