The Delhi High Court has set aside an order issued by the Central Information Commission in 2016, which declared all ministers public authorities under the Right to Information Act. In an order on November 23, the court said the commission’s directive was outside the scope of the matter it was hearing, according to Live Law.
In response to a Maharashtra man’s petition challenging the delay in getting a reply to an RTI query from the Law Ministry, the Central Information Commission had said all Union and state ministers were answerable under the RTI law. It also said that governments should help ministers set up related offices along the lines of the public information officer and the appellate authority.
The Centre challenged the order at the High Court. Calling it unsustainable, Justice Vibhu Bakhru said: “There was no occasion for the CIC to enter upon the question as to whether a minister is a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
The court said the petition was only against the delay in response, and that there was no dispute that the RTI applicant was entitled to the information. He had only sought action against the Law Ministry’s chief public information officer and the appellate authority, the judge said, adding that the court found it “difficult to understand” how the information commission’s verdict arose in the matter.
In his application in November 2014, the Maharashtra resident had sought to know at what time the law minister could meet the public. After not getting a response, he filed an appeal and got a reply in January 2015 that appointments were given according to the minister’s convenience. He then filed a second appeal asking why the response was delayed.