Right to Information

UAF Officer Fined for Withholding Information, VC Warned

Lahore: The Punjab Information Commission (PIC) has directed the Agriculture University Faisalabad (AUF) to disclose the equivalence certificate of Ph.D degree of Sociology and HEC Approved Supervisor Letter issued in favor of Dr. Izhar Ahmad Khan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology. The Commission also imposed a penalty of Rs. 50,000 on the Public Information Officer (PIO) for refusing to disclose the information within the time limit and without reasonable cause.

Citizen exercises Right to Information Act

A citizen, exercising his right under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 (RTI Act), had requested the disclosure of the aforementioned documents. The AUF, in response to the PIC’s notice, sought exemption from disclosure citing privacy concerns. However, the PIO failed to appear at the hearing to defend the claim of exemption, leading to adverse observations from the commission.

Equivalence certificate and supervisor letter deemed public documents

The PIC, in its order dated April 17, 2024, stated that both the equivalence certificate and supervisor approval letter issued by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) are public documents and not exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act. The commission argued that these documents are crucial for ensuring accountability of the university in the appointment process.

PIO’s conduct raises suspicion of pressure

The order further noted that the PIO repeatedly sought permission to consult with the university’s authority but failed to provide a definitive response on the disclosure of information. The Commission expressed concern over the apparent pressure exerted on the PIO, indicating potential interference from higher authorities.

Potential penalty for VC and PIO

Considering these factors, the PIC ruled that the PIO’s actions amounted to refusal to disclose public information. The commission imposed a potential penalty of Rs. 50,000 on the PIO under Section 15 of the RTI Act. Additionally, citing Rule 3(6) of the RTI Rules 2014, the Commission warned the VC of a similar penalty for hindering the PIO’s ability to disclose public information.

VC given a chance to comply

The PIC, however, provided the VC with a final opportunity to comply with the order. The VC is directed to personally ensure that certified copies of both documents are delivered to the complainant within seven days. If the VC fails to comply, they will be deemed guilty of refusing to disclose public information due to conflict of interest and liable for the penalty.

Compliance report and next steps

The PIC has directed the AUF to submit a compliance report by April 29, 2024. In case of non-compliance, a formal notice for penalty forfeiture will be issued to the relevant treasury department. The Commission has also directed that copies of the order be sent to the VC, the Governor of Punjab, and the Chancellor of the university for their information.


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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