`Cabinet doc’s preparatory info under RTI ambit`

Exemption clauses of RTI will apply only for proposals taken up for Cabinet`s consideration.

New Delhi: Exemption clauses of the RTI Act related to Cabinet documents will apply only when proposals formulated are "actually" taken up for consideration by the Cabinet, the Central Information Commission has held.

The information which went into preparation of a cabinet
note "but is not a part of it" will qualify for disclosure as
per provisions of the Right to Information Act, a full bench
of the Commission said.
"A note that is withdrawn would therefore not constitute a Cabinet Note and would consequently qualify for disclosure," the Bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Information Commissioners Satyananda Mishra and Deepak Sandhu held.

Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act exempts from disclosure
cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the
Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers till the
decision has been taken.
"Exemption under Section 8(1)(i) will apply only when a
Note is submitted by the Ministry that has formulated
it to the Cabinet Secretariat for placing this before the
Cabinet. All concomitant information preceding that, which
does not constitute a part of that Cabinet Note, will then be
open to disclosure," the Bench said.

The case relates to Human Rights activist Venkatesh Nayak who sought from the Department of Personnel and Training a copy of the draft Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers` (PIDPI) Bill approved by the Cabinet.
"The key issue for decision here, therefore, would appear to us to be to distinguish what constitutes the stage of `formulation`, when disclosure of draft legislation leading to policy is mandatory, as against the stage of `finalisation`, when it will constitute a document exempt
from disclosure," it said.

The Bench said once a draft is submitted to the Cabinet
Secretariat, with all its necessary attachments for submission
to the Cabinet, it would remain exempt from disclosure till
such time as the decision has been taken and action to be
taken thereon is "complete and over".