CIC | File notings and correspondence sent and received by MHA in relation to mercy petition not a part of ministerial advice – can be disclosed under RTI

Central Information Commission (CIC): Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava allowed a second appeal for information regarding mercy petition on the grounds that file notings and correspondence sent and received by Ministry of Home Affairs does not form a part of ministerial advice.

In the instant case, an application was filed by the appellant under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to seek information on several points pertaining to mercy petition of her son, who was a death row convict lodged at Yerwada Central Jail. The appellant filed a second appeal as CPIO denied information under Article 74(2) of the Constitution of India and there was no response to her first appeal.

Learned counsel, Ragni Ahuja, on behalf of the appellant contended that information pertaining to ministerial advice is protected under Article 74(2) of Constitution of India. But since the information sought by the appellant did not pertain to Article 74, she had been wrongly denied the said information. The counsel relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, where the Court allowed the disclosure of not only correspondence but also notings by high constitutional functionaries, so the appellants requested the commission to direct the respondent to provide complete information. 

Learned counsel, Hari Mohan Jha, on behalf of the respondent contended that recommendations along with all documents lead to the formation of ministerial advice to the President of India is privileged under Article 74(2) of the Constitution and the same cannot be disclosed under RTI Act. The counsel relied on the case Union of India v. Central Information Commission, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 879, in which the commission gave directions for disclosure of information relating to correspondence between the former President of India and the then Prime Minister relating to Gujarat riots was set aside.

The Commission opined that file notings and correspondence received or sent by Ministry of Home Affairs pertaining to appellant’s mercy petition does not form a part of the ministerial advice to the President, and the file notings of the mercy petition filed could be provided to the appellant. The Commission observed that the file noting and the correspondence contained the names of the officials recording the same, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of those officials and hence its disclosure was exempted under Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. Relying on S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, it directed the respondent to provide the information sought after severing all the names and other references which could reveal the identities of the public officials concerned.[Ujwala Kokde v. CPIO, Second Appeal No. CIC/MHOME/A/2017/609431, decided on 12-06-2019]

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