Denial of ACC notes was upheld by FAA - CIC: Since the matter relates to disclosure of ACC recommendations made by the Cabinet Secretariat and the matter is subjudice in Delhi High Court, it would be judicious to await the final outcome of the matter
Information sought and background of the case:
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 29.08.2018 seeking information on the following 3 points:-
The CPIO/RTI Cell DOPT, vide letter dated 30.08.2018 transferred the application to CPIO/RTI Cell, Cabinet Secretariat under section 6(3) of the RTI Act,2005. The CPIO/Section Officer RTI Cell, Cabinet Secretariat vide letter dated 03.10.2018 stated that no such information is available. Dissatisfied with the response received from the CPIO, the Appellant filed a First Appeal dated 22.11.2018.
The FAA and Under Secretary Cabinet Secretariat, vide order dated 18.03.2019 upheld the reply of the CPIO. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied, the Appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Facts emerging in Course of Hearing:
In order to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19, hearing through audio conference was scheduled after giving prior notice to both the parties.
The Appellant participated in the hearing through audio conference. He stated that the information sought was important as empanelment to the rank of Addl Secretary will help him avail higher pensionary benefits after retirement.
The Respondent represented by Shri Sachin Katiar, CPIO and Section Officer, Cabinet Secretariat participated in the hearing through audio conference. He stated that initially vide letter dated 03.10.2018, the Appellant was informed that the information was not available. Subsequent to the receipt of the notice of hearing from the Commission the matter was re-examined and it was found that information on point no 2 was available. However, in consultation with DoP&T it is decided not to disclose the information since the matter relating to disclosure of Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) notes and recommendations under RTI Act, 2005 is presently subjudice before the Division bench of the High Court of Delhi, where the decision of the Single Judge Bench of the High Court of Delhi was stayed.
Having heard both the parties and on perusal of the available records, the Commission observes that the decision of the High Court of Delhi in WP (C) 8396/2009 dated 30.11.2009 regarding disclosure of ACC notes and recommendations was stayed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi in LPA 347/2010 and connected matters vide order dated 12.07.2010 which continues till date. Thus, the Commission is of the view that since the matter relates to disclosure of ACC recommendations made by the Cabinet Secretariat and the matter is subjudice in the High Court of Delhi in LPA 347/2010and connected matters it would be judicious to await the final outcome of the pending matter in the High Court of Delhi.
Y. K. Sinha
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Jyoti Kalash v. Cabinet Secretariat in Second Appeal No. CIC/CABST/A/2019/110326; Date of Decision: 24.09.2021