CBI not completely out of RTI – High Court
CBI, the investigating agency which was the target of the opposition long before the discussions about ED, has received a setback from the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court told the CBI that it accepted that the CBI (Central Investigation Agency) is outside the Right to Information Act, but not completely.
The court said in its decision that if there is a case related to corruption or violation of human rights, then CBI will have to give information. Section 24 of the RTI Act mentions that some institutions will remain out of the scope of RTI. These institutions are mentioned in the second schedule of the law.
The two exceptions mentioned by Judge Justice Subramaniam Prasad under RTI related to corruption and human rights violations are not new. Even before, the courts have registered this regarding some cases and agencies, yet such disputes continue to go before the court.
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The whole matter of CBI and RTI
This entire matter was related to officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi, known as ‘Khemka of AIIMS’. 49 year old Chaturvedi is a 2002 batch IFS i.e. Indian Forest Service officer of Haryana cadre. These days, he is working as the Chief of the Research Department set up for the conservation of forests in Nainital district of Uttarakhand.
When he was posted as Chief Vigilance Officer in AIIMS, the CBI case is related to him. During his tenure at AIIMS, Chaturvedi had exposed many high-profile scams. One of these was the case of alleged corruption regarding the purchase of a medical store of ‘Jayaprakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre’. CBI was investigating this.
In such a situation, as a whistleblower, Chaturvedi wanted to know through RTI from CBI that information about the investigation should be provided in connection with the allegations of corruption in the trauma center. CBI did not pay attention to Sanjeev Chaturvedi’s application. Chaturvedi appealed to the Central Information Commissioner for information.
In November 2019, CIC asked CBI to provide information. CBI was adamant that we will not give the information because Section 24 of the RTI Act gives us freedom where we are not bound to give such information. The matter reached Delhi High Court on which the decision has now been taken.
While disposing of the CBI petition, the court said that the information sought is not related to any sensitive investigation and it is not that the investigating officers will suffer any loss if the disclosure regarding this corruption case is made. Therefore, in its decision the court has asked the CBI to provide the sought information.
A case of RAW and RTI
Keeping in view the sensitive matters, some special exemptions were given to intelligence and security agencies in the RTI Act. Last year, in another case which was related to the country’s intelligence agency RAW, more or less the same thing was also highlighted in an order of the Delhi High Court. However, the court did not find the information sought at that time to be related to corruption and human rights violations.
Uttar Pradesh cadre IPS officer Sanjeev Tripathi was the Secretary or Chief of RAW for two years between 2010 and 2012. Petitioner Nisha Priya Bhatia had sought information about all the government houses allotted to Sanjeev Tripathi after 1986. When Bhatia did not get any information about this from RAW, he knocked on the door of CIC.
CIC also refused to provide the information in 2017 and said that the information sought was neither related to corruption nor human rights violations and apart from these two exceptions, RAW is not bound to provide any other information. Delhi High Court had also recorded the same and refused to interfere in any way in the CIC order.
These 27 institutions are out of RTI but
Till last year, there were a total of 26 such institutions which were included in the second schedule of the RTI Act. This means that the RTI Act does not fully apply to them. Except in cases of corruption and human rights violations, in other cases all these institutions can refuse to provide information. Last year, the name of CERT-In or CERT-In was also added to this list.
CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, CERT-In) is an information and technology related security institute. The work of this nodal agency, which came into existence in 2004, is to identify and deal with threats related to cyber security such as hacking, phishing. The Government of India also included it in the second schedule of the RTI Act in the month of November last year.
This means that like 26 other institutions, information could not be sought from CERT-In using RTI unless the matter was related to corruption or human rights violation. So in this way there were a total of 27 intelligence and security organizations which got special exemption from the RTI Act. These 27 institutions are as follows:-
- IB means Intelligence Bureau
- RAW means Research and Analysis Wing.
- RAW’s technical wing i.e. Aviation Research Center
- NIA i.e. National Investigation Agency (National Investigation Agency)
- CBI i.e. Central Bureau of Investigation (Central Bureau of Investigation)
- Directorate of Revenue Intelligence
- Central Economic Intelligence Bureau
- ED i.e. Enforcement Directorate
- Narcotics Control Bureau
- special border force
- BSF means Border Security Force
- CRPF means Central Reserve Police Force
- ITBP means Indo-Tibetan Border Police
- CISF i.e. Central Industrial Security Force
- NSG i.e. National Security Guard
- Assam Rifles
- SSB means Sashastra Seema Bal
- DG-IT-Investigation i.e. Directorate General of Income Tax (Investigation)
- National Technical Research Organization
- FIU i.e. Financial Intelligence Unit of India
- SPG means Special Protection Group
- DRDO i.e. Defense Research and Development Organization (Defense Research and Development Organization)
- BRDO – Border Roads Development Board
- National Security Council Secretariat
- NIG i.e. National Intelligence Grid (National Intelligence Grid)
- SFC i.e. Strategic Force Command
- CERT-In i.e. Indian Computer Emergency Response Team