Seeking performance evaluation review of Ministries and Departments under RTI
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Cabinet Secretariat seeking documents relating to the performance evaluation exercise undertaken by the central government of its various ministries and departments during 2010-11 and 2011-12, including the minutes of both the midyear and the end of the year review undertaken by the Task Force appointed for this purpose. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided some information but denied the report on the year - end review of the performance of the various ministries and departments under section 8(1)(i) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; of the RTI Act stating that the outcome of the review was to be placed before the Cabinet.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant argued that the minutes of the year - end review would not constitute Cabinet papers since these were yet to be made part of any Cabinet note. He contended that all such information was only to be placed before the Cabinet for its information and not for any decision. He further pointed out that in spite of a definite time frame given in the scheme itself, the Department had not yet placed any of these records before the Cabinet for its information even though more than a year had elapsed. The respondents submitted that the Department was bound to place this information before the Cabinet as per the scheme itself and until it was placed before the Cabinet and they deemed these papers as Cabinet papers. They also informed that the Department had consulted the Cabinet Secretariat last year about the possibility of placing the documents before the Cabinet but had been advised to await further instructions.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the RTI Act protects from disclosure the Cabinet papers before the Cabinet takes any decision on those proposals and the Ministry or the Department concerned implements the decisions fully. The class of documents constituting the evaluation of various Ministries and Departments would not become the Cabinet papers or Cabinet note until the Department would prepare a specific note and seek any particular decision from the Cabinet. As per the present scheme the Department has to place these records before the Cabinet not for any decision making but only for its information. A pronounced intention of informing the Cabinet in future cannot be a shield against disclosure of the information at present. The CIC held that the minutes of the mid- year or end of the year review conducted by the appointed Task Force for both these years need to be disclosed. The Commission directed the PIO to provide the same to the appellant.
The government has formulated a scheme for undertaking periodic review of the performance of various Ministries and Departments through the mechanism of constituting a Task Force. After evaluating the performance of the central government Ministries and Departments, this Task Force produces a mid-year and a year-end review report. The scheme postulates that the results of the evaluation would be placed before the Cabinet for its information by first June of the following year. Such documents which are placed before the Cabinet only for its information do not qualify to be cabinet papers and hence are disclosable under RTI Act, provided they are not covered under any of the other exemption provisions.
Citation: Mr. Aloke Tikku v. Cabinet Secretariat, Performance Management Division in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001361
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1222
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission