LAHORE - A petition was filed in the Lahore High Court on Monday challenging appointment of Ex-MNA Naseer Bhutta as chief information commissioner for being in violation of merit.

Shoaib Saleem, a local lawyer, moved the petition and made the Punjab governor, Punjab government, law secretary and Chief Information Commissioner Naseer Ahmad Bhutta as respondents.

The lawyer said the Punjab Information Commission is an independent enforcement body set up under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013. Its job is to set the required mechanisms for right to information in Punjab, raise public awareness of the law, help public bodies comply with the law, train public information officers, monitor their performance, decide complaints and take action against those failing to comply with.

He said the Punjab governor, Punjab government and law secretary appointed Naseer Bhutta, who recently resigned from the office of additional attorney general, as information commissioner as per requirement of the said Act. He mentioned his earlier appointment as additional attorney general which he said was made by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013. He said Bhutta was political leader of the ruling party who once was elected as MNA from Lahore on a ticket of the PML-N so his recent appointment as information commissioner was made purely on political grounds and was in clear violation of Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013.

The lawyer claimed that Chief Information Commissioner Naseer Bhutta was also serving as PML-N Punjab Lawyers Forum President. Therefore, he could not be given the post of Chief Information Commissioner on political basis as the same needed criterion and qualification required for the post of a high court judge. Saleem apprehended that several petitions had been pending with the Chief Information Commissioner, and being a political boss, he could hinder access to the information.

He contended that under Section 5 (2) of Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, “A Commissioner shall not hold any other public office or any other office of profit or be connected with any political party and shall not engage himself in any business or profession during the period he holds the office of the Commissioner,”. The petitioner prayed to the court to set aside appointment of Naseer Bhutta as Chief Information Commissioner and restrain him from working till decision on the petition.