Supreme Court Rules against Itself:
Supreme Court Rules against Itself: Seminal Case on Freedom of Information in Pakistan
While adjudicating an appeal, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has granted a citizen’s request to make public certain information regarding the Supreme Court’s own employees. The petitioner’s request for this information has earlier been denied by the Registrar of the Court on the pretext that the freedom of information law does not apply to this institution. The Islamabad High Court, both in writ and appellate jurisdiction, dismissed the petitioner’s case. But today the Supreme Court itself has allowed the Petitioner’s request.
The Court ruled that although Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 does not apply to the Supreme Court, Article 19-A does. This Article of Constitution casts a duty on all institutions of the state to ensure citizens’ access to information. The verdict clarifies that neither the Supreme Court nor any other courts is exempted from the application of this Article.
The appellant, in this case, had previously filed an application to the Registrar of the Supreme Court to provide him information regarding the staff members and vacancies in the Supreme Court, but the Registrar declined the request. He approached the Information Commission to direct the Registrar to provide him with the requested information. The ICP directed the Registrar to provide him with the information but the Registrar filed a writ in the Islamabad High Court and challenged the decision. The single bench of the High Court allowed the writ petition and held that the said Act does not apply to Courts. This judgment was impugned in intra court appeal which was dismissed as being time barred. The appellant challenged the said decision before the Supreme Court wherein the SC ruled that right to information is a fundamental and vested right of the citizens which cannot be denied ordinarily except the law has created an exception thereto.
The SC directed the Registrar to provide the requested information to the appellant. This judgment safeguards and strengthens the right to information. If the apex court of the county is not exempted from this right, no other institution or an organ can claim an exception to this right.