AJK HC to hear petition seeking legislation, implementation of right to information

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Altaf Hamid Rao
MIRPUR (AJK):    Azad Jammu Kashmir High Court has accepted a writ petition, for regular hearing, seeking immediate legislation and implementation of right to information in AJK, as protected in the AJK interim constitution of 1974.

The learned court has fixed June 25 the next date of hearing and ordered for issuance of notices to all the respondents made party in to the case.

The writ petition titled ‘’Zaffar Mughal and others v/s AJK government’’, was filed under article 44 of the interim constitution – 1974, by the petitioner a senior Kashmiri journalist and former press secretary to an AJK Prime Minister Zafar Mughal who prayed that the respondents may kindly be directed to legislate the Right to Information Law in pursuance of dictates of the Paragraph XXII of Article 4 of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Interim Constitution, 1974.

He also prayed that the respondents may also be directed to provide for the hierarchy in Azad Jammu & Kashmir under the Right to Information Law and to make regulations in pursuance thereof.
It was prayed in the petition that the Information Commission in pursuance of the relevant law may kindly be directed to constitute in accordance with the law. Any other relief permissible under law may please be allowed.

Other petitioners in the case include Sardar Ejaz Nazeer Advocate, Member & Ex-president District Bar Association Mirpur, Mohammad Khalil Ghazi Advocate, Member & Vice President District Bar Association Mirpur, Khawar Sharif Advocate, Member Executive & Member District Bar Association Mirpur, Khurram Manzoor Advocate, Member Executive & Member District Bar Association Mirpur Azad Kashmir, Aitzaz Ahsan Advocate, Member DBA Mirpur, Syed Shoaib Bukhari Advocate, Member DBAm Mirpur, AJK.

Besides the main respondent – Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir through its Chief Secretary, AJK Cabinet members, Department of Information of AJK government through its Secretary to the govt., department of Law, Justice, Parliamentary Affairs and Human Rights Azad Jammu & Kashmir, AJK Legislative Assembly, Secretary Information, Director General Public Relations / Information Department of AJK Govt. and others have been made respondents to the petition.

The petitioners underlined in the petition that they have been striving for supremacy of law, rule of law and are bound to leave no stone unturned for the Supremacy of Constitution of AJ&K. The dictates of Paragraph XXII of Article 4 of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Interim Constitution, 1974 are that every Citizen is entitled for Right to Information, but no law has been promulgated to meet the mandatory provision of the constitution.

They maintained that since primarily it was incumbent upon the respondents that they must implement the constitutional provisions in letter and spirit, but the respondents do not abide by the Constitution of AJ&K.

“Therefore the petitioners seek immediate issuance of directions by the learned AJK High Court over this writ petition of Mandamus on the following grounds inter-alia;
BASIC GROUND:

The petitioners maintained in their writ petition that before the 13th amendment in the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974, no Right or Access to Information was allowed to the subjects of the State of Azad Jammu & Kashmir under the Interim Constitution Act, 1974. Through 13th Constitutional amendment “Right to Information” has been declared a Constitutional right in accordance with the Paragraph XXII of Article 4 of Interim Constitution, 1974 for providing information to the subjects of the State of Jammu & Kashmir as it is indefeasible fundamental and constitutional right. The said Paragraph has been incorporated under Article 4 as sub-Paragraph XXII of Interim Constitution, 1974 which is reproduced hereunder for ready reference;
“Every State Subject shall have the right to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law”
They underlined that the Interim Constitution, 1974 of Azad Jammu & Kashmir has allowed Right to Information through 13th Constitutional Amendment, but till-date no enactment or regulation has been framed by the Legislative Assembly to meet the constitutional needs of the said fundamental right. The petitioner No 1 being professional journalist very often in the performance of his duty is in need of information pertaining to the public importance, but the public functionaries refuse to give information by pretending that in AJ&K no Act or Regulations are available for providing the requisite information. Similarly, petitioner No 2 to 5 are also need information pertaining to the public importance, but are refused with the lame excuses. Thus, it is obligatory to direct the respondents to implement the constitutional provisions by enacting the Right to Information Act to meet the constitutional requirements.

Seasoned legal expert Qazi Adnan Qayyum appeared on behalf of the petitioners.