Right to Information

Published by The Daily Star on 19th April, 2016 (Link Above)

This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies. 

Query

I am a citizen of Bangladesh and I am curious to know whether we have any right to information that we can exercise in Bangladesh. Whether the Government authorities and private companies are bound to provide information to general public?

Nurullah
Dhaka

Response

Thank you very much for your query.  Upon receipt of the query I have understood that you are desirous to know about your right to receive information from Government offices and Private authorities. According to the Right to Information Act 2009 (hereinafter referred as “the Act”) every citizen of Bangladesh has a right to information from the Authority and the Authority shall, on demand from a citizen, be bound to provide such information.

Hence, you, as the citizen of Bangladesh, have the right to receive any information from the Authority. However, the law has set down certain procedures for getting such information.  However, at the very outset let us understand who is the “Authority”? The law defines the term “Authority” under section 2 of the Act and provides the list of authorities that are under an obligation to disclose information and their respective information providing unit, as has been illustrated below:

– Any organisation/institution constituted in accordance with the constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh;

– Any ministry, division or office constituted under the Rules of Business as given in article 55(6) of the Constitution.

– Any statutory body or institution established by or under any Act.

– Any private organisation or institutions run on government funding or with help from the government exchequer.

– Any private organisation or institutions run on foreign funding.

– Any organisations or institution that undertakes public functions in accordance with any contract made on behalf of the Government or made with any public organisation or institution.

– Any other organisation or institution as may be notified by the Government in the official gazette from time to time.

Every Authority shall have an Information Providing Unit and these are:

– The head office, divisional office, regional office, district office or sub-district (Upazila) office of any department, directorate or office attached to or under any ministry, division or office of the government.

– The head office, divisional office, regional office, district office or sub-district (Upazila) office of an authority.

Another question that needs to be answered is what is information? Information has been defined in the Act as any information in relation to an Authority’s constitution, structure and official activities and includes any memo, book, design, map, contract, data, log book, order, notification, document, sample, letter, report, accounts statement, project proposal, photograph, audio, video, drawing, film, any instrument prepared through electronic process, machine readable documents and any other documentary material regardless of its physical form or characteristics. However, information does not include office note sheet or photocopies of note sheets. Every Authority or Information Providing Unit is bound to provide anyone with any information which falls within the definition of Information provided that the said person follows the correct procedure.

However, there are few information which are not open to the citizen and, hence, none of the Authorities shall be obliged to give the citizens such information which includes Information, disclosure of which would be a threat to the security, integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh. Information related to any foreign policy, the disclosure of which would lead to harming existing relationships with any foreign state, or international institution or any regional bloc or organisation. Information received in confidence from a foreign government etc. Similarly, few organisations and institutions involved with national security and intelligence are not bound to provide any information to the citizens.

Now, we shall talk about the procedure of acquiring the information. At first you need to identify the relevant Authority or Information Providing Unit where the information you are seeking is available. An application has to be made in writing or by e-mail to the responsible officer of any Information Providing Unit who is nominated by the Authorities for each Information Providing Unit.

In the application, the following information must be given: which shall include name, address, and where applicable fax number and e-mail address of the applicant; correct and clear description of the information sought; any other useful and related information that might help in locating the requested information; description of the method by which information is sought, namely by inspecting, taking photocopies, taking notes or any other approved method.

The information request shall be made either in the form printed by the Authority (Form A) or in the prescribed format. However, if the forms are not printed or are not easily available or the format has not been prescribed, then the application can be written on a plain white paper by giving all the information mentioned above or can be sent through electronically or by e-mail. An acknowledgement receipt needs to be collected after submitting the application.

I hope you have answer to your queries.

For detailed query contact: omar@legalcounselbd.com.