Delhi HC Rejects CIC Order Holding Ministers Public Authorities under RTI Act

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December 09, 2017

Union of India and Anr. v. Central Information Commission and Anr.

The Petitioner in the case challenged CIC’s (Central Information Commission) order, whereby the CIC has declared “the Ministers in the Union Government and all State Governments as ‘public authorities’ under Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, 2005.

Background of the case: In the case, before the CIC, the respondent no.2 had filed an application before the Additional Private Secretary, Minister of Law and Justice, Government of India seeking the following information:-

“Time period of Hon’ble Minister or Minister of State’s meeting the General Public has not been issued by the Ministry. If issued, its details and time to provide in Hindi and English language.”

Since the information as sought was not received, respondent no.2 filed an appeal. Thereafter, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) sent a response informing respondent no.2 that “No specific time has been given for the meeting of General Public with the Hon’ble Minister. However, as and when requests are received appointments are given subject to the convenience of the Hon’ble Minister”.

Respondent no.2 filed a second appeal wherein he stated that he had not received the information sought for within the specified time and, therefore, prayed that certain action be taken against the concerned CPIO.

Impugned order of CIC- In appeal, the CIC framed the following questions for his consideration:

  • Is Minister or his office a “public authority” under the RTI Act?
  • Whether a citizen has right to information sought, and does the minister has corresponding obligation to give?

The CIC held that the Ministers in the Union Government and/or State Governments are “public authorities” within the meaning of section 2(h) of the Act. The CIC also issued several directions to the Central or State Governments to provide necessary support to each Minister including designating officers as Public Information Officers and First Appellate Authorities, by providing official website for suo moto disclosure of information and, for periodical updating of such information.

Delhi High Court’s order and observation- The Delhi High Court set aside CIC’s order in the case and opined that the directions issued by the CIC in the case was beyond the scope of CIC and in the facts and circumstances of the case, there was no occasion for the CIC to enter upon the question as to whether a Minister is a “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the Act.

The case can be accessed here.