RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: Six Sanitation Superintendents fined Rs25,000 each for not providing info in time

CIC slapped a fine of Rs25,000 each on six Sanitation Superintendents from the Municipal Corp of Delhi for the delay of over 100 days in providing information under the RTI Act. This is the 26th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC, that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), slapped a fine of Rs25,000 each on six Sanitation Superintendents (SS)'s from the Municipal Corp of Delhi (MCD) for not providing information in stipulated time despite its order. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, directed the Commissioner of MCD to recover the fine of Rs25,000 each from the salaries of these officers.

 

“Since the delay in providing the information has been over 100 days, the Commission is passing an order penalizing all six officers Rs25,000 each, which is the maximum penalty under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi is directed to recover the amount of Rs25,000 each from the salary of Nand Lal, SS of South Zone; Rajendra Prasad, SS of South Zone (formerly in Narela Zone); Raj Pal Singh, SS of SP Zone; Om Prakash, SS of Nazafgarh Zone; Ravinder Rai, SS of West Zone and Naresh Kumar, SS of Central Zone,” the CIC said in its order issued on 22 October 2010.

 

Delhi resident Ravi Bhushan Bali, on 11 February 2010, sought information about recruitment and promotion of 13 officials from the MCD. Here is the information sought by him and the reply he received from the Public Information Officer (PIO)...

 

1.  Provide the information under the RTI Act as per the following format mentioning Direct Recruitment /Adhoc promotion /Regular promotion with the then office order no and date, shown in the table in the application for 13 officers:

1. Nand Lal 2. Surender Singh 3. Bal Kishan 4. Raj Pal 5. Krishan Kant 6. Kishori Lal

7. Lakhara 8. Suraj Bhan 9. KC Gulati 10. Ravinder Ray 11. Om Prakash 12. Naresh Kumar 13. Jagdeesh Chandra

PIO: The PF file and S/book of the officials of the officials mentioned in point 1 are not available at the office. Letters dates 18/12/2010 and 04/03/2010 were sent to the Zonal officers, to provide the PF File & S/Book, with a copy to the appellant. PF File of Mr Bal Kishan and Mr Jagdish Chander have been received in this office and the same can be inspected on any working day within 15 days, and the appellant may obtain a copy of the documents as the desired information in the prescribed pro forma is not available. The department is in the process for obtaining the PF File and S/book of the remaining officials. 

 

2.   How many officials were transferred from DDA to MCD with designation?

PIO: It is a voluminous record, hence the appellant may come and inspect the relevant files and collect the desired documents.

 

3. At what designation DDA staff had been transferred to MCD and what designation considered by MCD?

PIO: As Above.

 

4.  Since when seniority had been given to said staff in each category?

PIO: As Above.

 

5.  Photocopies of office orders for all above mentioned officials for each designation'

PIO: As Above.

 

6.  Photocopy of terms and conditions on which DDA supervisor staff Was transferred to MCD.

PIO: As Above.

 

7.  What is status of promotion case of under signed for which a representation has already been submitted.

PIO: The representations have not been dealt with so far.

 

Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Bali, the appellant, then filed appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA asked Mr Bali to inspect the relevant file and obtain the copies of the desired documents free of cost by appearing personally at the PIO’s office on any working day within 15 days from the date of the issuance of the order.

 

Know how to How to use the existing RTI Act of India to query the private sector

 

Mr Bali then filed second appeal before the Commission. During the hearing on 10 September 2010, the PIO stated that he sought the assistance of 12 SS and one EO Pension under Section 5(4) of the RTI Act. He said, that he received the service books of only Bal Krishan and Jagdish and these were inspected by the appellant and photocopies of records which he sought were given to him. However, the other SS did not respond, the PIO stated.

 

Mr Gandhi, then asked the PIO to obtain the service books from all the SS and give inspection to the appellant on 30 September 2010 and provide photocopies of whatever records the appellant wants free of cost. The Commission also issued a show cause notice to the PIO and SS for not providing complete, required information and be present before the CIC on 22 October 2010 along with their written submission.

 

During the hearing on 22nd October, the Commission noted that the PIO was required to provide information from the service file(s) of 13 officers. He sought the assistance of various SS on 18 February 2010 and sent reminders on 4 March 2010. Only two service files from Rohini Zone were made available for which information was provided. 

 

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After the order of the Commission on 10 September 2010, the PIO provided the requisite information after obtaining the service files from various SS for another seven officers in September 2010. The service files of RK Lakhara, KC Gulati, Om Prakash and Kishori Lal were not provided. Mr Bali stated that he has obtained the requisite information and does not wish to get any information on these four officers.

 

The Commission said the SS did not provide any reasonable explanation for the delay in giving the information. Nand Lal, SS of South Zone; Rajendra Prasad, SS of South Zone (formerly in Narela Zone); Raj Pal Singh, SS of SP Zone; Om Prakash, SS of Nazafgarh Zone; Ravinder Rai, SS of West Zone and Naresh Kumar, SS of Central Zone provided the service files and replies only after the Commission's order.

 

Section 20 (1)  of the RTI Act states, “Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty five thousand rupees;

Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be.”

 

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Section 19 (5) of the RTI Act has also stated that “In any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, who denied the request.”

 

Since the information was not provided within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7, the Commission said it was duty bound to levy a penalty of Rs250 each day, till the information is provided. The Commission said, these six SS should have provided information before 11 March 2010 but gave it only in September. "Since the delay has been for over 100 days the Commission imposes the maximum penalty of Rs25,000 as per Section 20(1) of the RTI Act on six officers," Mr Gandhi said in the order.

 

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2010/002127/9341Penalty

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2010_002127_9341Penalty_T_44118.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2010/002127

 

 

Appellant                                  : Ravi Bhushan Bali

                                                  New Delhi – 110030.

                                                                          

Respondents                            : (1) Nand Lal, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS

                                                  MCD South Zone; 

                                                  Green Park, New Delhi

 

                                                  (2) Rajendra Prasad, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS South Zone 

                                                  (formerly in Narela Zone) 

                                                  MCD South Zone; 

                                                  Green Park, New Delhi

 

                                                  (3) Raj Pal Singh, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS SP Zone; 

                                                  MCD SP Zone; 

                                                  Idgah Road, Sadar Pahar Ganj Zone,

                                                  New Delhi

 

                                                  (4) Om Prakash, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS 

                                                  MCD Nazafgarh Zone

                                                  Overhead water tank, Najafgarh Zone, 

                                                  Nazafgarh Zone, New Delhi

 

                                                  (5) Ravinder Rai,  

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS 

                                                  MCD West Zone

                                                  Rajouri Garden, Vishal Enclave,

                                                  New Delhi

 

                                                  (6) Naresh Kumar, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS 

                                                  MCD Central Zone

                                                  Jal Vihar, Lajpat Nagar,

                                                  New Delhi

 

                                                  (7) Surender Singh, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS West Zone

                                                  MCD 

                                                  Vishal Enclave, Rajouri Garden,

                                                  New Delhi

 

                                                  (8) Devender Kumar 

                                                  Public Information Officer & Chief Engineer 

                                                  Municipal Corporation of Delhi

                                                  Office of Assistant Commissioner/DEMS/HQs

                                                  Gandhi Mela Ground, Town Hall,

                                                  Delhi- 110006

 

                                                  (9) Kishan Lal, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS City Zone

                                                  MCD City Zone

                                                  Delhi

 

                                                  (10) JK Gupta, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS Sahadara 

                                                  MCD Sahadara North Zone

                                                  Sahadara, Delhi

 

                                                  (11) Vijender Rana, 

                                                  Deemed PIO & SS Rohini Zone;

                                                  MCD Rohini Zone,

                                                  Rohini Zone, Delhi

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RTI Judgement Series: When the Western Ghats ecology status report was made public

Disclosure of the WGEEP report would enable citizens to debate in an informed manner and provide useful feedback to government. The law requires suo moto disclosure by the public authority while formulating important policies and not after formulating them, ruled the CIC. This is the 25th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC, that can be used or quoted in an RTI application


The Central Information Commission (CIC), while rejecting the contention of the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), ordered that all reports of panels, experts, committees and commissions set up by government with public funds must be displayed suo moto as per the mandate of Section 4 (1) (c) & (d) read with 4 (2) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, said, “The Commission does not find any merit in his (PIO's) contention that disclosure (of the report) would impact the economic interests of the nation.”

 

“The Commission directs that the ministry of environment and forests should publish all reports of commissions, special committees or panels within 30 days of receiving them, unless it feels that any part of such report is exempt under the provisions of Section 8 (1) or 9 of the RTI Act. If it concludes that any part is exempt, the reasons for claiming exemptions should be recorded and the report displayed on the website within 45 days of receipt, after severing the parts claimed to be exempt. There should be a declaration on the website about the parts that have been severed, and the reasons for claiming exemptions as per the provisions of the RTI Act,” the CIC said in its order issued on 9 April 2012.

 

Kerala-based G Krishnan, on 22 November 2011, sought information about the Madhav Gadgil panel report. He sought following information...

 

Summary of the report submitted to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil and the report on the Athirappilly HEP, Kerala.

 

The PIO, while denying the information, stated that “(the) MoEF is still in the process of examining the report of WGEEP in consultation with six state governments of the Western Ghats region. The report is not final and a draft under consideration of MoEF and thus not complete/ready for disclosure under the RTI Act. The appellant was requested to file his RTI application again at a later date after completion of the process.”

 

Not satisfied with the reply, G Krishnan then filed application with the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA mentioned that the information sought may not be disclosed under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

 

G Krishnan then filed a second appeal before the Commission. During the hearing on 23 March 2012, the Commission noted that the PIO did not give any reasons for denying the information; however, he mentioned that the FAA has held that the information may not be disclosed under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

 

The PIO accepted that the sovereignty and integrity, security or strategic interests of the State would not be affected. He argued that “scientific or economic interests of the State” would be prejudicially affected on disclosure of the information at this stage. The PIO further stated that views from 11 ministries, the Planning Commission and six states were sought. Therefore, disclosure of information at this stage would lead to various proposals as per the recommendations of the report which had not been finally accepted.

 

The Commission then reserved its order.

 

In an order issued on 9 April 2012, Mr Gandhi noted that the PIO denied the information contending that the report was being finalised and hence not ready to be furnished under the RTI Act. “It must be noted that since the report has already been submitted by the panel to MoEF, it cannot be called a ‘draft’ report. Moreover, there is no provision in the RTI Act which exempts from disclosure a report that has not been finalised or accepted by a public authority,” the Commission noted.

 

During the first hearing on 23rd March, the PIO claimed that the information was protected from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, which exempts ‘information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence’.

 

The WGEEP was set up in 2010 by the MoEF under the chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil. It was designated certain functions which included an assessment of the ecological status of the Western Ghats region, demarcation of areas within the said region required to be notified as ecologically sensitive, and recommendations for conservation, protection and rejuvenation of the Western Ghats region. The panel was also given the task of examining the Athirappilly hydroelectric project (HEP).

 

On receipt of the report, the MOEF recognised that the recommendations contained therein had far-reaching consequences on conservation and development of the Western Ghats region, and centre-state relations. Therefore, wide ranging consultations from the concerned states and central ministries were instituted.

 

Mr Gandhi said that the RTI Act recognises that a democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information, and there is a need for transparency of information to contain corruption and to hold the government and its intermediaries accountable to the citizens.

 

Section 3 of the RTI Act lays down that all citizens can exercise their fundamental right to information from all public authorities, without having to give any purpose or reasons. A PIO must provide the information within 30 days unless it falls under the ten exemptions of Section 8 (1) or Section 9.

 

“...a claim that a final decision has not been taken, hence information will not be provided, is not a tenable reason for refusal. Thus, all denial of information would have to be justified by the provisions of the RTI Act,” the Commission said.

 

Even if the information is exempted, it would have to be provided, if a larger public interest can be proved in disclosure as per the provision of Section 8 (2). After 20 years have elapsed, only three of the exemptions of Section 8 (1) would apply. Thus, Parliament clearly intended that most of the information should be available to the citizens and denial of information should be the exception and disclosure the rule. Section 4 of the Act was a statutory direction to all public authorities “to provide as much information suo moto to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”, Mr Gandhi noted in his order.

 

The Western Ghats have been internationally accepted as a region of topographical and ecological significance. It is recognised as a biodiversity hotspot on account of a substantial number of species facing the threat of extinction. From the broad mandate of the WGEEP, it is clear that its report would have extensive ramifications on the biodiversity of an ecologically-sensitive region as the Western Ghats. Moreover, as submitted by the PIO, the areas covered by WGEEP in its report and the recommendations given therein would influence many important sectors such as agriculture, land use, mining, industry, tourism, water resources, power, roads and railways.

 

The PIO argued that premature release of the report (containing the methodology for demarcation) into the public domain without adequate consultations with the state governments/central ministries to refine the boundaries of eco-sensitive areas may lead to a situation wherein there would be an influx of proposals for declaration of eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats by individuals/ groups/ organisations. His contention was that this would impact economic progress and interests. The PIO did not, however, advance any argument to show how the scientific interests of the nation would be affected.

 

Mr Gandhi observed that, “Disclosing a report or information does not mean that the government has to follow it. It may perhaps have to explain the reasons to the public for disagreeing with a report based on logic and coherent reasons. This cannot be considered as prejudicially affecting the scientific and economic interests of the State.”

 

“Even if the government decides not to accept the findings or recommendations, their significance as an important input for policy making and taking decisions cannot be disregarded arbitrarily. If such reports are put in public domain, citizens' views and concerns can be articulated in a scientific and reasonable manner. If the government has reasons to ignore the reports, these should logically be put before people,” he said.

 

The RTI Act recognises the above mandate and in Section 4 contains a statutory direction to all public authorities “to provide as much information suo moto to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”. More specifically, Section 4 (1) (c) of the RTI Act mandates that all public authorities shall “publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public”. It follows from the above that citizens have a right to know about the WGEEP report, which has been prepared with public money, and has wide ramifications on the environment. Disclosure of the WGEEP report would enable citizens to debate in an informed manner and provide useful feedback to the government, which may be taken into account before finalizing the same, the Commission noted.

 

The PIO has not been able to give any reason how the disclosure would affect the scientific interests of the State. The PIO’s claim for exemption is solely based on Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act. The Commission has examined this claim and does not find any merit in his contention that the disclosure would impact the economic interests of the Nation. The Commission, therefore, rejects the PIO’s contention that the information sought by the appellant is exempt under Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, Mr Gandhi said.

 

While allowing the appeal, the Commission directed the PIO to an attested photocopy of the summary of the WGEEP report and the report on the Athirappilly HEP, Kerala to the appellant before 5 May 2012. Furthermore, it asked the PIO to ensure that the complete WGEEP report is placed on the ministry of environment and forest’s website before 10 May 2012.

 

The Commission directed the MoEF to publish all reports of commissions, special committees or panels within 30 days of receiving them, unless it feels that any part of such report is exempt under the provisions of Section 8(1) or 9 of the RTI Act. “If it (MoEF) concludes that any part is exempt, the reasons for claiming exemptions should be recorded and the report displayed on the website within 45 days of receipt, after severing the parts claimed to be exempt. There should be a declaration on the website about the parts that have been severed, and the reasons for claiming exemptions as per the provisions of the RTI Act. This direction is being given by the Commission under Section 19(1)(b)(iii) of the Act to the Secretary, MoEF,” the Commission said in its order.

 

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000374/18316

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2012_000374_18316_M_79964.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000374

 

 

Appellant                                            : G Krishnan,

                                                            Kerala-683582

 

Respondent                                                 : Dr Amit Love,

                                                            CPIO & Deputy Director,

                                                            Ministry of Environment and Forests,

                                                            Room No. 539, Paryavaran Bhavan,

                                                            CGO Complex, Lodhi Road

                                                            New Delhi-110003

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RTI Judgement Series: All Cabinet Notes regarding tabling of bills must be displayed

The Commission ordered that all Cabinet Notes regarding tabling of bills must be displayed on the website in fulfilment of the requirements of Section 4(1) (d) of the RTI Act. This is the 24th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC, that can be used or quoted in an RTI application


The Central Information Commission (CIC) while rejecting the exemption under Section 8(1)(i) of the Right to Information (RTI) ordered that all Cabinet Notes regarding tabling of Bills must be displayed on the website in fulfilment of the requirements of Section 4 (1)(d) of the RTI Act. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, said, “Citizens are certainly deeply affected by every law made by Parliament, and hence have a right to know the basis on which these laws are being made.”

 

“The Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is directed to ensure that the Cabinet Note mentioned above is displayed on the website of the Department before 20 July 2012 and all Cabinet Notes relating to proposals for new bills to be tabled in the Parliament should also be displayed on the website of the Department within seven days of tabling the bill in the Parliament,” the CIC said in its order issued on 26 June 2012.

 

Venkatesh Nayak, a resident of Delhi on 20 January 2012 sought information about a Cabinet Note regarding the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011. Here is the information he sought:

 

1. A clear photocopy of the Cabinet Note prepared by your department seeking approval of the Union Cabinet for introducing The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill, 2011, in the Lok Sabha along with all annexures. This Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 7 September 2011;

2. The total number of records and live files held by the DAE Secretariat and its units that have been assigned the security classification: “top secret”, 'secret' and confidential' as on the date of this application. I wish to clarify that (would like to know) only the total number of records and files marked with each type of security classification mentioned above but not the total number of pages in each file. I also wish to clarity that I do not want information about any public sector undertaking or aided institution under CM;

3.The subject matter or topic of each record and live file that has been assigned the security classification “top secret”, 'secret' and confidential' as on the date of this application; and

4. A clear photocopy of the information submitted by DAE to the Central Information Commission under Section 25(3) of the RTI Act for the period: 1 April 2010-31 March 2011

 

The Public Information Officer (PIO) forwarded the query 1 to PIO of ER Section, DAE.

He said...

Point No.1: A copy of the RTI application is being forwarded to PIO/OSD(ER) for furnishing a reply to you as the subject matter is dealt by ER Section, DAE.

2. Point No.2 The information requested for is not available as no records are kept regarding the total number of such files centrally.

3. Point No.3 The information requested are exempted from disclosure under Section

8(a) of the RTI Act, 2005.

4. An extract of Annual return for the year 2010-Il submitted by DAE to CIC under Section 25(3) of the RTI Act is enclosed

 

The PIO of ER Section, DAE, while refusing to disclose the information claimed exemption under Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act.

 

Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Nayak then filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA in his order said, “...the use of the word ‘and’ appearing in Section 8(1)(i) between ‘after the decision has been taken’ and 'the matter is complete or over’ implies that both the conditions, i.e. (i) the decision has been taken; and (ii) the matter is complete or over, must be satisfied for disclosure of full information.”

 

The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests had put the contents of the Bill in the public domain and invited comments on it. As is public knowledge, the Committee has deliberated on the report and forwarded its observations to the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

 

“Thus, the matter stands and has to be taken forward, and the second condition i.e. ‘the matter is complete or over’ is not satisfied in this case. In view of the above, the information sought does not qualify for disclosure at this stage...” the FAA said.

 

Mr Nayak then approached the Commission with the second appeal. He said, “It is undisputed that the information relating to the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill sought by me is in the nature of a Cabinet Note. However CPIO#1 has failed to appreciate the holistic position of the exemption provision that he has sought to invoke.”

 

“Upon securing the approval of the Union Cabinet, the minister of state for public grievances and pensions tabled the said bill in the Lok Sabha in September 2011. So the purpose of the Cabinet Note was completed upon securing Cabinet approval and the subsequent tabling of the said Bill in Parliament. The contents of the Cabinet Note now qualify for disclosure under the proviso to Section 8(1)(i) as the matter is over. The passage of the Bill is dependent upon the will of both Houses of Parliament and the Union Cabinet cannot undertake to get the Bill passed. Therefore the limited purpose of the Cabinet Note attached to the said Bill may be treated as over. However CPIO #1 has not appreciated this fact. Instead, he has mechanically invoked Section 8(1)(i) without paying any attention to the proviso underlying it, which entitles me to receive the said information,” Mr Nayak said in his appeal.

 

During the first hearing on 18 May 2012, the PIO was not present at the Mumbai NIC studio. When the Commission called up the Joint Secretary, he stated that he had not received the notice for hearing. The matter was then adjourned and a fresh notice was issued.

 

During the second hearing on 25 June 2012, both the parties agreed that that the Cabinet Note has been put up to the Cabinet, and after due approval a bill has been presented to the Parliament. While the PIO claimed that the matter is not complete and over until the Bill is enacted, duly gazetted, and a notification is issued that the bill comes into force, Mr Nayak contended that rather than nearly invoking 8 (1)(i) mechanically the PIO has a duty and a burden to demonstrate what interests are sought to be protected by the secrecy of Cabinet papers at this stage of the bill, which will outweigh the disclosure in public interest.

 

When asked by the Commission, if he can explain the harm which may accrue to the protected interest if the information is disclosed, the PIO stated that since the Bill has not been enacted, revealing the Cabinet Note may be inappropriate and should not be revealed.

 

Mr Nayak contended that the NSRA Bill has proposed amendments to the RTI Act while the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has told the Parliament that no amendments are proposed to the RTI Act and therefore he needs to know the contents of the Cabinet Note to ensure that no amendments are made to the RTI Act without widespread consultation.

 

The PIO stated that the Bill was already in the public domain and therefore he was not able to appreciate the appellant’s contention. The Commission then reserved its order.

 

The Commission noted that the PIO has claimed exemption under Section 8 (1)(i) of the RTI Act whereas the appellant has stated that the Cabinet Note sought by him is not covered by the said exemption.  The RTI Act has codified the fundamental Right to Information of Citizens guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

 

As per Section 3 of the Act, “Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information. The provisions of the Act by which any information may be denied to a Citizen is defined in ten exemptions of Section 8 (1) of the Act. Section 8 (2) of the Act, which states, ‘Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interests in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests’ would override the exemptions of Section 8 (1) if a larger public interest in disclosure is shown.

 

Section 8 (1) (i) under which the PIO has claimed exemption and that has been upheld by the FAA exempts, "cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers:                                             

 

Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:

Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;"

 

Mr Gandhi, the CIC, said the Commission agrees with the FAA’s contention that the use of the word ‘and’ appearing in Section 8(1)(i) between ‘after the decision has been taken’ and ‘the matter is complete or over’ implies that both the conditions, i.e. (i) the decision has been taken; and (ii) the matter is complete or over, must be satisfied for disclosure of full information.

 

“If the decision has been taken and the matter is complete or over, the exemption under Section 8(1)(i) would not be available. If the decision has not been taken or the matter is not complete or over the information would be exempt. The PIO has argued that this means that the purpose for which the Cabinet Note was made—passing of the proposed Act—should be over. If such an interpretation were to be given it would mean that if an Act for which the Cabinet Note was made is either not passed by Parliament, or not Gazetted, or not Notified, such a Cabinet note would never be disclosed under the RTI Act,” it noted.

 

Mr Gandhi said it may be worthwhile to glimpse the mind of the Parliament when passing the RTI Act to understand the frame of mind of the elected representatives.

 

In Parliament when the RTI Bill was debated, Varkala Radhakrishnan, MP said, “Even Cabinet papers, after a decision has been taken, must be divulged as per the provisions of this amendment. It cannot be hidden from the knowledge of others. It must be divulged. But before taking a final decision, the Cabinet papers can be kept secret.”

 

“Thus it is clear that the intention to prevent disclosure was only until the time that the decision was taken by Cabinet on the Cabinet Papers/Notes. Once the Cabinet decision has been taken, the first part of the proviso that the decision had been taken would be fulfilled. With the tabling of the bill in Parliament the second part of the Proviso that the matter is complete or over would also have been met,” the Commission said.

 

The Commission ruled that the Cabinet Note is material on the basis of which a Cabinet decision is taken to table a bill in Parliament. “Once the decision is taken by the Cabinet to table the bill in Parliament the ‘decision has been taken'’ when the bill is tabled in Parliament ‘the matter is complete or over’ as far as the Cabinet is concerned. In the instant case, since the ‘the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:’ the exemption claimed under Section 8 (1) (i) of the RTI Act by the PIO is not upheld,” it said.

 

The Commission then directed the PIO to provide an attested photocopy of the Cabinet Note along with all the annexures in query-01 before 20 July 2012. The Commission in exercise of its powers under Section 19 (8) (a) (iii) of the RTI Act, also directed the Secretary, DAE to display this Cabinet Note and all Cabinet notes in future on the department's website where such Cabinet notes relate to proposing a new bill to be tabled in Parliament, within seven days of the bill being tabled in Parliament.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2012/001023/19365

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2012_001023_19365_M_85347.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2012/001023

 

Appellant                                            : Venkatesh Nayak

                                                          New Delhi- 110017

 

Respondent                                                 : A Anandraju,

                                                            PIO & OSD(ER)

                                                          Department of Atomic Energy

                                                          Officer on Special Duty (ER) & CPIO

                                                          Anushakti Bhawan                                                                                                   

                                                          Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg

                                                          Mumbai- 400001

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