In a ground-breaking decision taken by Kerala Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Vinson M. Paul, on Wednesday, all state cabinet decisions, once finalised, will now fall under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.


The Kerala CIC has directed state authorities to make public all cabinet decisions, beginning from January 1, within 10 days.


RTI activists in the state were miffed after their applications, seeking information on decisions made by the new Kerala government led by Pinarayi Vijayan during the first cabinet meeting, were denied.


The state commission also suggested the government publish cabinet decisions on its official website.
 

"The details of all cabinet decisions should be given once the procedures regarding those decisions are completed. The government should also consider uploading cabinet decisions on the official government website," the Commission observed.


Paul issued the order while disposing of a complaint by RTI activist DB Binu against the decision of the state government, which denied him copies of the cabinet decisions taken from January 1 to March 12 under the RTI Act.

 

"This landmark decision by the commission will change the flow of information from the government to the people. Usually, cabinet decisions are announced in press meets but this doesn't give us the entire picture. The ministers decide what information has to be passed on to the people and media. If the minutes of cabinet meetings and documents are made available in the public domain then it'll bring transparency to our governance," said Binu.


The note submitted by appellant Binu at the hearing read, "It is respectfully submitted that the Cabinet system of governance and the decisions of the Council of Ministers assume paramount importance. However, governments have been showing a tendency to keep sensitive decisions under the carpet. This leads to arbitrariness in decision making and corruption."


It also added, "The situation has not changed even ten years after enactment of the Right to Information Act as could be seen by the recent refusal of the Kerala government to disclose details of hundreds of Cabinet decisions taken just before the announcement of the elections. Many of these pertained to the largesse handed out to private individuals, companies and other organizations."

 

According to Section 8 (1) (i) of the RTI Act, cabinet decisions are exempted from RTI. However, the Act also makes it clear that the minutes and discussions in the cabinet will be disclosed only after a decision has been taken by the council of ministers.

 

In a parliamentary debate over the RTI Bill, former MP Varkala Radhakrishnan, who passed away in 2010, had said, “From the time our Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950, we haven't given the fundamental right to information to the citizens of the country. People are entitled to know what actually is taking place in the government.”