Development funds: district courts not providing info to CGPA

The Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) said that it has requested to share details of the development funds allocated for respective districts courts in last fiscal year, but the courts are avoiding to provide information under RTI Act. "No a single district court provided information in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa requested under KP Right to Information Act 2013. The information requests were filed on June 23 to all district and session judges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) in a statement issued here on Tuesday.

He said the district courts were requested to share details of the development funds allocated to their respective district courts in financial year 2014-15, utilization of development funds till June 20, 2015 and lapses in development funds. Anwar said District courts are covered in purview of the KP Right to Information (RTI) Act. Section 2, Sub section (i) of KP RTI Act 2013 include "subordinate judiciary ie Courts of district and session judges, court of additional district and session judges courts of senior civil judges, courts of civil judges and courts of magistrates" in the list of public bodies from who information can be requested.

CGPA official further explained the Information requests were filed to 22 District and Session Judges of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under KP RTI Act 2013. Out of these 22, only seven requests were responded but not with the requested information. The District and Session Judge Bannu responded 'it is informed that keeping in view the trend of frivolous applications, submitted by fictitious persons, the application can't be entertained. You may attend the office in person for collecting the sough information and the request would be dealt with as per law'.

"Article 19-A of constitution states, every citizen shall have the right to access information in all matters of public importance, subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law. However, under the KP RTI Act 2013, citizens are not required to visit offices of public bodies or show reason for accessing information. Rather, public bodies shall proactively disclose such information.

Similarly, Buner and Dir Lower courts stated that due to anonymous requests received, they are unable to entertain the requests. Mansehra, Torghar, Haripur and Nowshera district courts requested Peshawar High Court for providing guidance in the said matter.

Anwar stated that after recent amendments in KP Right to Information Act 2013, the decisions of KP information commission can be challenged in the courts of district and session judge. Now even if complaints are filed with KP information commission against district courts, the orders of information commission can be over-ruled by the same public body under which the complaint is submitted. This is a major flaw in the KP RTI Act after the amendment made in June 2015. He demanded from the KP assembly to amend KP RTI law, so appeal against the KP information commission decisions can only be challenged through writ petition in Peshawar High Court, as right to information is a fundamental right.