MUMBAI:In a landmark ruling, the Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra, Ratnakar Gaikwad, has brought the offices of all ministers and ministers of state under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Gaikwad, in an order dated September 24, has directed the Maharashtra government to appoint RTI officials and an appeals authority in the office of each minister. He has issued the order on a complaint filed by a journalist Govind Tupe. Tupe had complained that the Social Justice Department had in July this year denied him information pertaining to the purchase of a house in London, where Dr BR Ambedkar had stayed for two years in 1918.
During the hearing, the commission stated, “Offices of ministers have been set up by government... these perform several duties — receiving files from various departments, applications from people and complaints from the public, and correspond with various authorities/offices...”
Gaikwad has maintained that no government office can deny information under RTI. In other words, his order has brought the ministers’ actions and behaviour under public scrutiny.
Anil Galgali, an RTI activist, has welcomed Gaikwad’s order. “It will help bring transparency in government functioning. It is sad that activists still need to rush to higher authorities to get the government to work,” he said. With the Commission’s order, letters written by ministers, the recommendations they make, and other details such as their daily schedule, are expected to be made available through RTI requests.