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

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.