New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has allowed CBI to withhold information related to allegations of corruption which are not levelled against its employees in an order which may not be entirely in tune with the provisions of the RTI Act.
The CBI has recently been placed under second schedule of section 24 of the RTI Act by the Central government which exempts it from making disclosures under the Right to Information Act provided “allegations of corruption or human rights violation shall not be excluded”.
“In our view, the reference to allegations of corruption in the proviso to section 24 of the RTI Act is only to such allegations against the employees of the CBI and not about the cases of corruption being investigated by the CBI.
“Had the latter been true, there would be no purpose including the CBI in the second schedule as all cases investigated by it relate to allegations of corruption in one form or the other,” Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said in his order dated 7 August.
He was hearing the plea of activist Subhash Agrawal, who had sought information on corruption cases against chief ministers.
According to the RTI Act, the exemption proviso is meant only for “intelligence and security organisations” and CBI was included in the schedule as it also probed cases related to national security.
Two former Chief Information Commissioners were of the view that information related to allegations of corruption means “any information” not specifically about the organisation or its employees.
The definition of Right to Information under the Act says “the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority”. Information defined under the act says “any material in any form”.
When contacted, former chief information commissioners said according to RTI Act, any information “held by or under the control of” exempted organisations which relates to allegations of corruption can be disclosed and it may not necessarily be about those organisations or their employees.
First CIC Wajahat Habibullah said, “Any information held by the exempted organisation if it relates to allegations of corruption can be given.”
Another former CIC AN Tiwari also agreed with the view.
“Any information related to allegations of corruption which is held by exempted organisation, not necessarily its employees only, can be disclosed,” he said.
The former CICs, however, did not comment on the order passed by Mishra.
When contacted, Mishra said since the order is passed by the Commission is final, it can only be challenged in competent court. He, however, added that in future cases he may consider taking views of the larger bench.
Section 24 (1) of the RTI Act says, “Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government.
“Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section.”