Commission orders furnishing of details of Cabinet decisions under RTI Act

State Information Commission

Thiruvananthapuram: The State Information Commission has ordered that details of Cabinet decisions should be furnished to applicants under Right to Information Act.

Chief Information Commissioner Vinson M. Paul said in his order on an appeal petition filed by D. B. Binu of Human Rights Defence Forum, Kochi, that the exemptions provided under the Act did not cover matters on which decisions had been taken.

The Commissioner directed that the details sought by the petitioner including agenda and minutes of the Cabinet decisions taken between January 1 and April 12 this year should be furnished to him free or charge within ten days.

If there were any practical difficulties in supplying the information, the procedures should be modified to in tune with the spirit of Right to Information Act which was aimed at ensuring transparency in administration and supply of information to the public in time. In this respect, the government should seriously considering uploading of decisions to the official website immediately after they are taken.

Mr. Paul observed that while releasing information on the Cabinet decisions, information on matters pending decisions need not be supplied. In case of any difficulties in providing certified copies of the decisions under current procedure followed in the Secretariat, the applicant should be allowed to peruse the relevant documents and take notes. 

He added that action should be taken to remove procedural difficulties at the earliest so that future requests under RTI Act could be granted in time. He also observed that practical difficulties, if any, could be removed by application of information technology. Information could not be denied citing technical reasons and complexity of procedures.

The State Public Information Officer of General Administration (Strictly Confidential) Department had contended before the Commission that information on Cabinet decisions could be provided only after the procedures had been completed by the departments concerned.  Copies of the orders would have to be obtained from the respective departments. The Commission rejected this argument.

The argument that the information should be obtained from departments concerned after ascertaining the status regarding completion of procedures amounted to denial of information.  The Information Office had a legal obligation to supply the information under the Act, the Commission observed.