This commission has held through its earlier Orders that minutes of official meetings, noting on the files and intermediary opinions are exempted from disclosure under Section 7 only if final decision has not been taken on the issue being deliberated upon in official meetings. Once final decision has been taken, minutes of meetings, intermediary opinions and noting on files become public documents, unless hit by any of the exemption clause of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 which is not the case in the instant Appeal.
The disclosure of ‘minutes of meetings’, ‘intermediary opinions and ‘noting on the files’ during the deliberative process is protected to ensure that outside influence does not create hindrances in the deliberative process. However, once a public body has taken a final decision, as is the case in the instant appeal, minutes of the meetings cannot be treated as excluded records.
This commission maintains that access to the requested information cannot be denied on the grounds of lis alibi pendens. This commission has maintained through its different Orders that pendency of the writ petition between the parties does not bar the provision of information under the Act unless specifically barred by the court itself, or, under the provisions of the Act. Therefore, the contention of the Respondent does not hold water.
Our ability to exercise our fundamental right of access to information enables us to attain our other fundamental rights such as gainful employment, right to life, right to clean drinking water, right to breathe in in clean air and right to healthcare services etc. In fact, the constitutional right of access to information helps citizens in the exercise of right of access to justice as well by having access to records/information to effectively present their cases in the court of law.