Make public cabinet notes related to proposed bills: CIC
The central information commission on Tuesday directed the atomic energy department to make public the cabinet note relating to proposals for new bills on web sites within seven days of tabling in the parliament.
The directives came while ordering the department to make public the cabinet note prepared for introduction of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill by placing it on their web site before July 20, 2012.
"The commission directs the secretary, department of atomic energy, to display this cabinet note and all cabinet notes in future on the department's website where such cabinet notes relate to proposing a new bill to be tabled in parliament, within seven days of the bill being tabled in parliament," information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.
Hearing the petition of RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, Gandhi said a citizen has the right to know the basis on which the cabinet decided to bring a particular law.
"There is a larger public interest in disclosing cabinet notes regarding introduction of any new bill in parliament, after the cabinet has taken a decision to table such a bill and the bill is tabled", he said.
Gandhi said suo-moto disclosure clause of the RTI Act in Section 4(1)(d) says all public authorities must "provide reasons for administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons".
"Citizens are certainly deeply affected by every law made by parliament, and hence have a right to know the basis on which these laws are being made. The citizen who gives legitimacy to the members of parliament and thereby, to the institution of parliament itself must be provided reasons which are behind the laws being made by parliament", he said.
The atomic energy department had rejected the request to make the cabinet note public saying that cabinet papers are exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act.
Rejecting the arguments, Gandhi said, "the commission rules that a cabinet note is the material on the basis of which a cabinet decision is taken to table a bill in the parliament. Once the decision is taken by the cabinet to table the bill in parliament the 'decision has been taken'; when the bill is tabled in parliament 'the matter is complete or over' as far as the cabinet is concerned".
"In the instant case, since the 'the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over' the exemption claimed under Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act by the PIO is not upheld", he said.
Gandhi directed the atomic energy department to place the cabinet note on its web site before July 20, 2012.
He said disclosure of Cabinet Notes was also the intent of parliament while framing the RTI Act.
In an elaborate order, Gandhi quoted speech of Varkala Radhakrishnan, MP, at the time of RTI bill was debated in Parliament who had said even cabinet papers, after a decision has been taken, must be divulged as per the provisions of this amendment".
"It cannot be hidden from the knowledge of others. It must be divulged. But before taking a final decision, the cabinet papers can be kept secret", Gandhi quoted Radhakrishnan in his decision.