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‘Cabinet meeting minutes not secret under RTI’

By asif mahmood
December 11, 2021

LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission, pronouncing its historic decision, has told the Punjab government that it cannot keep secret the provincial cabinet meeting minutes under Article 19-A of the Constitution and the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013.

It declared that Section 24 of the RTI Act enjoyed the supersedural effect on Rule 31 of the Punjab Rules of Business 2011, under which the cabinet meeting proceedings and any talk held there were deemed to be secret.

Giving a verdict in the Muhammad Rafique Vs. S&GAD case, Chief Information Commissioner Mehboob Qadir Shah said “the cabinet makes decisions about the public welfare which cannot be kept secret from people at any case”. The decision said keeping cabinet meeting proceedings secret was denial of democracy, which is defined as “a government of the people, for the people, and by the people”. The commission said in its verdict that the enactment of RTI Act 2013 had rendered the Official Secret Act 1923 ineffective practically as the new law orders all public bodies to make all information public if sought under the Right to Information Act.

The decision said the imperialistic government consisted of foreigners and they enacted the Official Secret Act 1023 to keep all official information, even about the public, secret from people. It said as the people of Pakistan are free now, therefore they have the right to know all information, available with the government departments and the public bodies.

The commission said in its verdict that any government attempt to keep secret the cabinet meeting minutes as well as any proceedings affecting the public lives would be in rebellion against the Constitution of Pakistan.

The chief information commissioner rejected the arguments advanced by the S&GAD about secrecy of the Feb 15, 1994 cabinet committee meeting proceedings, and directed the Section Officer Cabinet-2 and Secretary I&C to make public the minutes of that particular meeting.