Ministers are public authority under transparency law: CIC
The Central Information Commission on Saturday ruled that ministers are public authority under the RTI Act and are directly answerable to the people, not just through the departments they oversee.india Updated: Mar 13, 2016 01:41 IST
Ministers can’t duck the Right to Information (RTI) law any longer.
The Central Information Commission on Saturday ruled that ministers are public authority under the RTI Act and are directly answerable to the people, not just through the departments they oversee.
The commission gave the cabinet secretary at the Centre and chief secretaries in the states two months to appoint public information officers for each minister’s office. Also, the CIC said each minister should get a website of their own where they can disclose information on their own as mandated under the transparency law.
Ministers and their offices were already part of the departments that they head for the RTI Act. But the public information officers of departments often treat their minister’s office as a no-go area. For instance, the department of personnel — which lays down policies regarding RTI — refuses access to files with the minister, saying these were under submission to “higher offices”.
Information commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu’s directive to the government could fix this loophole once and for all. The ruling came on an appeal from a Maharashtra resident who wanted to know how to get an appointment with the Union law minister.
“It is pitiful that a citizen has to file an RTI request to know the timings and process of meeting their chosen minister, which should have been ordinarily provided on their own,” the commissioner said.
“The Commission has no hesitation to declare the ministers in the Union government and all state governments as ‘public authorities’,” Acharyulu said. The Commission further recommended to “replace the ‘oath of secrecy’ (mandatory oath for all ministers to keep official information known to him a secret) with ‘oath of transparency’ so that the minister will respect the right to information of the citizen”.
“Being a minister itself is public authority and as minister is associated with and assisted by an office, he cannot escape from the responsibilities under Right to Information Act,” the Commission said adding, “That office should facilitate access to people to the information held by it”. “As Constitutional functionaries, the ministers have a duty to inform the people about their efforts to fulfil the promises they have made,” the order said.