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CBI can’t withhold info on graft: CIC
Says even exempt bodies must reveal information about corruption, rights violation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 2
The Central Information Commission (CIC) today upheld the supremacy of the Right to Information Act preventing the CBI from withholding information related to corruption by public officials on grounds that it is an exempted organisation under the Second Schedule of the law.

CIC Satyendra Mishra made it clear in his orders today that information related to corruption and human rights violations needed to be disclosed under law even by public authorities exempted under the Second Schedule and there was no “escape from disclosure”.

The Second Schedule of the Act exempts 25 intelligence and security organisations of the country from making sensitive disclosures under the law. The CBI, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid are the latest entrants to the ever-growing list.

However, Section 24 of the Act makes it clear to the public authorities that they have to disclose information related to corruption and human rights violations.

It says, “Information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this subsection.”

The case at hand involves the CBI’s refusal to disclose to petitioner CJ Karira of Secunderabad information on sanctions the CBI sought for prosecution involving allegations of corruption against certain public officials.

The CBI, on its part, first returned the RTI application which the petitioner sent by post and later argued before the CIC that the information the petitioner was seeking could not be divulged as the CBI was a Second Schedule Organisation.

“Since the CBI, by and large, handles cases of corruption involving public officials, it would have to entertain every RTI application, making its exemption pointless. That is not the purpose behind exemption,” the CBI argued for non disclosure. The agency further said it was obliged only to disclose information related to corruption by its own employees and not by employees of other Central organisations.

The point to be decided by the CIC was - whether the CBI needed to disclose the information under Section 24 of the Act. Ruling in the case, the CIC said, “The wording of Section 24 is clear. It casts an obligation on the CPIO of the exempted organisation to entertain all requests for information pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violations. It doesn’t make any distinction between the exempted organisations on the basis of the functions they perform nor between allegations of corruption on the basis of whether it is made against the employees of the exempt organisation or against others.”

Ordering the CBI to part with information within 15 days, CIC Satyendra Mishra said the agency should compensate the petitioner an amount of Rs 153 for at first returning his envelope unopened.

The order added, “It is true that the CBI primarily investigates cases of corruption by public servants of the Central Government and therefore most of the information it holds would have a nexus with allegations of corruption. It is also true that the proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act would make it necessary for the CPIO to entertain all such RTI applications, rendering the exclusion of the organisation from the operation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act almost pointless. This cannot be helped as the law is quite clear.”

The orders come a day after the Cabinet decided to withdraw amendments which would have diluted the RTI Act.





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