Monthly update on ministries

The cabinet secretariat has asked all ministries and government departments to upload their "major achievements, significant developments and important events" on their websites every month to make governance more transparent.

By Anita Joshua
  • Published 29.06.16
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New Delhi, June 28: The cabinet secretariat has asked all ministries and government departments to upload their "major achievements, significant developments and important events" on their websites every month to make governance more transparent.

The move comes after considerable prodding from the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Acting on an appeal of Right to Information activist Venkatesh Nayak, the CIC last month asked the government to comply with his suggestion that Rule 10 of the "Rules of procedure in regard to proceedings in the Cabinet" be implemented. This rule has been in place since 1987, though essentially for members of the council of ministers.

According to the rule, every month a summary of the work of every department and ministry should be circulated among the ministers. If there is any classified material, it should be marked as such.

The petitioner's contention was that portions of these monthly reports that are either "unclassified" or not exempted under Section 8 of the RTI Act could be made public.

Section 8 of the RTI Act lists the instances under which a public authority can withhold information. These include matters of security and strategic importance, issues that could lead to a breach of privilege of Parliament, trade secrets or intellectual property, and information that courts have forbidden from publication.

While ordering that the monthly reports prepared for the council of ministers be placed in the public domain, the CIC contended that people were anyway being allowed under RTI to inspect the register that lists topics on the agenda of the Union cabinet. Also, it said, this would promote public interest.

Now that the cabinet secretariat has decided to comply with the CIC's order, Nayak told this newspaper it would be important to ensure the government does not turn compliance into a propaganda vehicle.

"If the monthly reports that have been shared with us via RTI applications are anything to go by, there is a template of sorts. While the finance ministry filed 'nil reports', some departments like that of revenue are providing information that should be put out there but we need to remain vigilant and ensure compliance is not just in letter but also in spirit."