CIC asks Centre for details on amendments to RTI Act
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Centre to provide all documents on the proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act.
The CIC order came on an appeal against a decision of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to deny information with regard to the cabinet`s decision on proposed amendments in the act on the grounds that the matter was not yet complete.
"DoPT is directed to produce relevant files for perusal on November five," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.
Megsaysay award winner Aruna Roy and RTI activist Shekhar Singh had filed an application with the cabinet secretariat in July last year seeking information on the reasons and materials taken into account by the cabinet to amend the act.
The Cabinet Secretariat, however, transferred the application to the DoPT, which, in turn, denied the information, stating that the proposed amendment bill was yet to be considered by the Parliament.
Not satisfied with the reply, the applicants made an appeal before the chief public information officer of the DoPT, contending that the cabinet had already taken a decision on the proposed amendment on July 19 last year.
"Where the government, for reasons extraneous to the cabinet decision, decides not to table amendment or is prevented from tabling the amendment, that is a subsequent and distinct matter, and cannot be taken as a ground for refusing access to information," they argued.
The CPIO, rejecting their contention, however, upheld the denial of information saying that the situation vis-a-vis the cabinet decision on the proposed amendment has not changed, so it was not possible to part with any information.
The RTI applicants, aggrieved with the decision, moved the CIC.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the applicants, referred to press reports and statements of ministers to assert that the decision to amend the RTI Act had already been taken by the Cabinet.
He, citing various provisions of the act, said "everything should be disclosed."
The CIC, after hearing both the parties, concluded that the dispute in the matter related to the fact whether a decision had been taken by the cabinet or not and asked the centre to submit all the relevant documents in a sealed cover to ascertain it.