Ministers in the Union and state Cabinets are “public authorities” liable to answer public questions addressed to them under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has ruled. This means that people can directly send questions to a minister by filing an RTI application, which will be answered by a public information officer in his office.
“The commission strongly recommends the Centre and states to provide necessary support to each minister, including designating officers, or appointing public information officers and first appellate authorities,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu held.
“The probable claim that a Cabinet minister does not have the necessary infrastructure to support the applicability of the RTI Act inasmuch as the minister is a singular person office… hence cannot be held as ‘public authority’ is not tenable,” he held.
The Information Commissioner directed that the “oath of secrecy” be replaced with an “oath of transparency” so the minister respects the right to information of the citizen, which was passed by Parliament and considered as fundamental right intrinsic in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
Acharyulu was adjudicating the case of Hemant Dhage of Ahmednagar, who sought to know from the staff of the then Union Minister for Law and Justice the scheduled time for people to meet the Cabinet minister and minister of state. He was directed to seek time from the minister himself.