In a major turning point in the history of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Vinson M. Paul has ruled that all cabinet decisions should be provided under the RTI. For a government, which has decided only to face the media once a month, even though the cabinet continues to meet, the decision of the CIC is a major blow to its “strictly official” cabinet meetings.
Adv. D.B. Binu, General Secretary, Human Rights Defence Forum, who filed an RTI, was denied the details of the cabinet decisions dating from February 1, 2016. The General Administration Department declined the request and said the information sought by the applicant through RTI cannot be given, because it is impossible to classify cabinet decisions, as some do not come under the Act. The department also mentioned that the decisions can only be revealed once it is implemented and the information should be taken from the respective government departments to which the files have been sent. Only such departments would know the current status regarding the same.
Countering the General Administration Department’s arguments, the RTI activist told the CIC that the government and a few ministers are misguiding the public and media by providing false information regarding the cabinet’s decisions. In this way, the government tries to help businesses and certain individuals, he claimed. The applicant also mentioned it is the right of citizens to know about the decisions taken by the cabinet. He added that the Secretarial Manual also mentions that orders must be taken within 48 hours after a cabinet decision.