Skip to main content

Central, state ministers are public authority under RTI, must "voluntarily disclose" information

Sridhar Acharyulu
By Our Representative
In an important verdict, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that both Central and state ministers are a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, pointing out, “It is pitiful that a citizen has to file a RTI request to know the timings and process of meeting their chosen minister, which should have been ordinarily provided on their own.”
The ruling, which is likely to have implications, said, the Commission is of the opinion that there is “no reason” why Ministers should be kept beyond the purview of the RTI Act, “as their answerability is well established by the Constitution and Representation of People Act.”
The ruling said, “The expression ‘authority’ would include all persons or bodies that have been conferred a power to perform the functions entrusted to them under the constitution and merely because the Ministers are individuals, the same would not render the office of the Cabinet Minister any less authoritative than other constitutional functionaries.”
Given by Central Information Commission Prof Sridhar Acharyulu on March 12, 2016, the ruling said, “Ministers in Union and State Governments are public authorities”, recommending, “The Centre and States provide necessary support to each Minister, which includes designation of some officers or their appointment as Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs).”
Insisting that ministers should provide “suo motu disclosure of information”, the ruling said, the appointment of a PIO should be made within two months, adding, “It will be in fitness of democratic requirements that every minister makes it a regular practice once or twice or thrice in a week or month at any frequency of his choice, that he/she will be made available for meeting the people in a scheduled hour.”
“It is the democratic right of voters to meet him and also it’s his duty to meet voters which will go a long way in achieving the objectives of good governance through transparency as envisaged by the RTI Act”, the ruling said.
The ruling came in response to appellant Hemant Dhage, who, through his RTI application, addressed the Additional Private Secretary of the Minister of Law and Justice, had sought to know the time scheduled for common people to meet the Cabinet Minister and Minister of State in the Mantralay (Secretariat).
The applicant was informed by the PIO of Ministry of Law and Justice that no specific time was given for general public to meet the Minister. However, as and when requests are received, appointments are given subject to the convenience of the Minister, he was told.
Referring to various articles of the Constitution, Prof Sridhar observed that “both commonsense and Constitution suggests Minister is an authority constituted ‘by and under the Constitution’,” noting, the Minister’s salaries are determined by the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954.
The ruling said, “Each member of Council of Ministers both at State level and Union is provided with the office, sufficient staff and other resources and infrastructure. Some senior scale civil servants also serve them.”
It added, “Entire expenditure of provision and maintenance of the office along with salaries to the staff members is borne by the Government and paid from the tax-payers money. Thus state Minister is ‘public authority’ as per Section (h) (a) of RTI Act, 2005,” the Commission observed.

Comments

TRENDING

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Untold story of Jammu: Business 'down', students fear lynching, teachers can't speak

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, seeking to debunk the view that people in Jammu, the second biggest city of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Srinagar, people had gone “out celebrating” abrogation of Article 370 which took away the state’s special status, has reported what it calls “abominably high levels of fear” across all sections in the town.

Kashmiris in a civil disobedience mode, are going against 'diktat' to open shops

Counterview Desk
A team of concerned citizens, including Ludhiana-based psychiatrist and writer Anirudh Kala, Mumbai-based activist and public health professional Brinelle Dsouza, Delhi-based journalist and writer Revati Laul, and social activist Shabnam Hashmi, travelled to Kashmir and Jammu to understand the impact of the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent security clampdown and communication blockade on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Success of 'political' Hinduism: Kashmiris being depicted as antagonists of rest of India

By Anand K Sahay*
There are times in history when facts call attention to themselves; they assert their independence in all its amplitude and are in no need of the crutch of interpretation. Such a moment is visible in Kashmir now. Merely by being on the table, the facts there taunt the regime’s proclamations.