<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=4 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=articleheader>The Telegraph dated 15/10/2007
Secrecy veil off cabinet
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=articleauthor>SOUMEN BHATTACHARJEE</TD></TR><TR><TD class=story align=left>
Calcutta, Oct. 14: The government has admitted that the minutes of a cabinet meeting cannot be kept secret and ordinary citizens have a right to know them.
Co-operation secretary Rajiv Sinha, the appellate authority of his department in matters relating to the Right to Information Act, 2005, has instructed the state’s principal information officer to provide an information on a cabinet decision, a request that had been turned down earlier.
This is the first time such an instruction has been given in Bengal under the 2005 law.
“We had sought an information on March 30 regarding the procedures in the re-appointment of retired IAS officer N.G. Chakraborty as the registrar of co-operative societies,” said R. Agarwal, a Delhi resident and right to information crusader.
The principal information officer of the department, H.P. Roy, informed Agarwal on April 30 that the government could not provide the details of the appointment as the decision was taken in a cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister.
The officer also told Ag-arwal that as the proceed- ings of cabinet meetings were classified information, they did not come under the purview of the right to information act.
Agarwal challenged the reply and moved the appellate authority, Sinha, for a hearing.
Sinha ruled that the principal information officer’s decision was not correct and that Agarwal should be provided with a copy of the minutes of the meeting.
“We checked and found that we had committed a mistake in denying Agarwal the copy of the minutes earlier,” said Sinha.
He also admitted that procedures were not followed while re-appointing Chakraborty.
An official said Agarwal’s questions to the co-operation department had pointed to irregularities while re-appointing Chakraborty after his retirement on January 31, 2006.
“Chakraborty was re-appointed for a year, but some basic procedures like issuing a gazette notification were not followed.”
Right to information cru- saders in the city said the case proves that officials handling the information act in the state are ill informed.