Delhi High Court sets aside CIC order on ministers as ‘public authorities’

Delhi High Court sets aside CIC order on ministers as ‘public authorities’

Order had declared “ministers in Union govt and all state govts as public authorities” under the RTI Act

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Delhi High Court (Express photo: Ravi Kanojia/File)

The Delhi High Court has set aside the Central Information Commission (CIC) order declaring ministers as “public authorities” under the RTI Act on the ground that the matter was outside its “scope”.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru set aside the March 12, 2016, order of the CIC, which had declared the “ministers in the Union government and all state governments as public authorities” under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.  “There was no occasion for the CIC to enter the question as to whether a minister is a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Act. Further, directions issued by the CIC are also wholly outside the scope of the matter before the CIC. In view of the above, the impugned order dated March 12, 2016 cannot be sustained and is, accordingly, set aside,” the court said.

The court’s order came on November 23 after the Centre appealed against the CIC order. The CIC directive that ministers were answerable under the RTI Act would mean 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 case dates back to November 20, 2014, when an application was filed before Additional Private Secretary, Minister of Law and Justice, seeking to know the “time period” of a minister meeting the public.  As the information sought was not received, the person filed an appeal in January 2015. In a reply on January 16, 2015, the CIC officer said that “no specific time has been given for meeting. However, as and when requests are received, appointments are given subject to the convenience of the minister”.

However, the person filed a second appeal with the “principal grievance” that since he had not received the information sought within the specified time The CIC then framed questions on whether the minister was a “public authority” under the RTI Act.