Right to Information, at last

THE Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed “The Right of  Access to Information Bill, 2017”. The Bill moved by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb provides for right to information in transparent and effective manner, subject only to reasonable restrictions imposed by law. This is, indeed, a historic development for which the present government especially the Minister of State for Information deserves credit for not only presenting a bill but also working hard for its passage. In 1990 Prof. Khurshid Ahmad originally presented the Freedom of Information Bill in the Senate. We believe that apart from other steps that present government has taken towards greater transparency in governance, the bill, when becomes an act of Parliament, would be a leap forward towards realisation of the goal of good governance. This is because it is intended to promote a two-way flow of information – from government to people and vice versa for strengthening and safeguarding the public’s right to know. This is especially important in the backdrop of Article 19-A of the Constitution which explicitly recognises this right as a fundamental human right. The bill recognises that it is an inalienable birth right of an individual and is universally recognised in a democratic dispensation. In constitutional governance, public officials are the custodians of the public records and documents, and the people, the real sovereigns, have the right of access to all public records. The bill is surely not ideal as there are provisions that could be used to withhold vital information but we hope with the passage of time, improvement would be made and the culture of secrecy in governance would be done away with. Greater transparency would also mean less chances of corruption and expeditious resolution of people’s problems.

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