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Cabinet Papers Cannot be Withheld From Public: Central Information Commission

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Cabinet Papers Cannot be Withheld From Public: Central Information Commission

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New Delhi:  The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Law Ministry to disclose the Cabinet note about the decision to establish a National Judicial Appointments Commission, saying that such documents are not secret and should thus be made public.

Hearing a plea by one SN Shukla, who had sought a copy of the NJAC Bill as cleared by the Cabinet along with the Cabinet note of last year, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said that after the central group of ministers has taken a decision, the notings cannot be withheld on the pretext that the Bill had not become an Act.

Meantime, President Pranab Mukherjee on December 31, 2014, has given his assent to two Bills -- the NJAC Bill, 2014, and the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014.

Law Ministry has submitted to CIC that the noting was not shared as, at the time of filing of the RTI plea, the Bill had not attained finality while, in the meantime, the government had changed. So, there was no substance in providing the same, the ministry said.

Mr Shukla countered the argument saying he was not seeking information with regard to the current form of the Bill, but the copy of the Bill which was initially presented before Rajya Sabha and stated that he was entitled to that information as soon as the final decision was taken in that regard.

The argument of the Law Ministry that the decisions of the Council of Ministers are disclosable but not the Cabinet papers, is totally untenable, he said.

The NJAC Bill facilitates the setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system, which has been under severe criticism.

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