The Central Information Commission (CIC) on 13 March 2016 ruled that Cabinet Ministers in the States and the Union are pubic authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. In effect, they are liable to provide information to the public as per the demands of the RTI applications filed under the Act.
This ruling was given by Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu while adjudicating the case filed by Hemant Dhage of Ahmednagar.
Details of the ruling
• To provide information asked under the RTI Act, public information officers (PIOs) should be appointed in the office of ministers.
• The Union and State Governments were recommended to assist the ministers by designating or appointing some officers as PIOs and First Appellate Authorities.
• The phrase of ‘oath of secrecy’ of ministers should be replaced with ‘oath of transparency’ in tune with the spirit of the RTI Act, which is built on the foundation that the right to information is a fundamental right and is intrinsic in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.
• The term Public Authority in the Section 2 (h) of RTI Act would include all persons/individuals (like ministers) or bodies (like the legislature) conferred with power to perform the functions entrusted to them under the Constitution
About the case
Hemant Dhage, in his RTI application, sought to know from the staff of the then Union Minister for Law and Justice the scheduled time for people to meet the Cabinet Minister and Minister of State. In response, the staff directed the appellant to check with the minister himself and take the appointment.
However, in the absence of any designated public information officer in the office of the minister, he approached higher appellant authorities, and finally the CIC, for redress.
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