NEW DELHI: The CBI is not entitled to absolute exemption under the RTI Act and it cannot refuse information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations held by it under the RTI Act, the Delhi High Court has held.
“It is apparent from the plain reading of the first proviso to Section 24(1) of the Act that the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation are not excluded from the purview,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.
The CBI has been denying information citing Section 24 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which says that its provisions will not apply on intelligence and security organisations, which also include IB, RAW, NIA and the Enforcement Directorate. The CBI was included in the list by the erstwhile UPA Government. The Act, however, clearly states that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violation will not fall under the exemption given to these organisations under Section 24 of the RTI Act.
The High court’s ruling came on an appeal filed by CBI against an order of the Central Information Commission which had refused to give complete immunity from the RTI Act to CBI. The CIC’s order came on a petition filed by Hyderabad-based RTI activist CJ Karira who had sought information pertaining to corruption in several top offices of the country from the CBI, but the agency had said since it is exempted from the RTI Act, it will not share such records.
The CBI had told Karira that the information on alleged corruption and human rights violation can only be disclosed if the allegations are against any official of the agency. This was an incorrect interpretation as the RTI Act dealt with information ‘held or controlled’ by a public authority and does not make any distinction if the allegations of corruption are against its employee or not, the CIC had noted.
In 2012, then Chief Information commissioner Satyananda Mishra had rejected the claims of the agency saying when it comes to disclosure of information on allegations of corruption, blanket immunity given to the agency from the RTI Act in Section 24 will not apply. In a judgement earlier this month, the High Court upheld CIC’s order and said the allegations of corruption do not attract blanket exemption given to the agency in Section 24. It has said the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation can be denied only if they fell under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act which gives 10 grounds on which information can be denied.