New Delhi: Emphasising that allegations of corruption are not covered in the exemption given to the CBI from the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has advised the agency director to sensitise its RTI processing officers about the provision.
Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha quoted an order of the Delhi High Court wherein the Intelligence Bureau was directed to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption to an applicant.
Like the Intelligence Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation has also been listed in the list of organisations exempted from the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
However, this exemption does not extend to records held by the agency which pertain to allegations of corruption and human rights violations and they are subjected to provisions of the RTI Act.
Sinha was hearing a matter wherein an RTI applicant had sought to know status of his complaint alleging irregularities in the allotment of LPG distributorship by the officers of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. in Jaipur.
Denying the information, the CBI cited exemption given to it by the central government and said that the provisions bringing information about allegations of corruption under the RTI Act was limited to allegations against its own officers and not every record pertaining to corruption held by it.
Rejecting the argument, Sinha said, “Commission observes that the reliance placed by CPIO on the earlier decisions of the coordinate benches to substantiate the view that CBI is only obliged to provide information relating to allegation of corruption against its own employees does not hold good.”
He referred to a Delhi High Court order dated August 23, 2017 wherein the Intelligence Bureau, an exempted organisation like the CBI, was directed to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption.
“…if the information sought pertains to allegation of corruption and human rights violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause, irrespective of the fact that the information pertains to the exempt intelligence and security organizations or not or pertains to an Officer of the Intelligence Bureau or not, the High Court ordered quoted by Sinha said.
The aforesaid ratio laid down with respect to the Intelligence Bureau is squarely applicable to the case of CBI also, Sinha held.
“Further, Commission finds that the incorrect connotation ascribed by the CPIO to the proviso to Section 24(1) of RTI Act that it is only applicable to cases involving CBI’s own employees may result in gross violation of the provisions of RTI Act by the Respondent office in future,” the information commission said.
He had marked a copy of the recent order to the Director, CBI advising him to appreciate the necessity of sensitising the Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) regarding the scope and ambit of the RTI Act and that of Section 24 in particular by way of appropriate workshops etc.