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CBI not completely exempted under RTI Act, permitted to furnish info on allegations of corruption: HC

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) The CBI is not completely exempt from the purview of RTI Act and the transparency law permits it to provide information pertaining to corruption and human rights violation, the Delhi High Court has held.

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Perusing Section 24 (Act not to apply to certain organisations) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the high court said it showed that even though the name of the organisation (CBI) found mention in the Second Schedule to the law, it did not mean that the entire Act is not applicable to such organisations.

“The proviso to Section 24 permits information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation to be made available to the applicant and the same cannot be included in the exception provided to organisations mentioned in the Second Schedule of the RTI Act,” Justice Subramonium Prasad in an order passed on January 30 and made available late Friday evening.

The high court passed the order on a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenging a November 2019 decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the probe agency to provide certain information to Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi.

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Chaturvedi had sought information about alleged corruption in purchase of disinfectant and fogging solution for the medical store of Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre, AIIMS.

He was the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS at the relevant time when he had sent a report regarding alleged corruption in the purchases being made for the trauma centre.

Besides, Chaturvedi had also sought a certified copy of the file noting or documents or correspondences related to the investigation done by the CBI in the matter.

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According to the officer, since CBI took no action on the information provided by him, he approached the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the probe agency.

After the CBI declined to furnish the information, he approached the CIC which ordered the central agency to provide him the details. The CBI then approached the high court challenging the CIC’s 2019 order.

The CBI had argued that Section 24 of the RTI law acts as a complete bar and the agency was exempt from the provisions of the Act.

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It contended that the proviso to Section 24 is not applicable to CBI and the agency cannot reveal the details of investigation it has conducted.

The federal probe agency said intelligence played a very vital role in its investigation of offences of corruption, and many important and sensitive cases were registered on the basis of intelligence inputs. Therefore, it cannot disclose the details of the investigation to Chaturvedi, the CBI said.

The high court said Chaturvedi has sought information regarding his complaint alleging corruption in purchase of fogging solution and disinfectant for the store of the trauma centre and this is not a case where sensitive information has been collected by the CBI the disclosure of which would be prejudicial for the officers involved.

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“This is also not a case where information is so sensitive that it cannot be shared with the public at large. The very purpose of the proviso is to permit information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations to be provided to the applicant,” it said.

“In the absence of anything on record to demonstrate that investigation regarding malpractices in purchase of cleaner disinfectants and fogging solution in JPNA Trauma Centre, AIIMS, New Delhi will expose the officers and other persons involved in the investigation which can endanger their life or would jeopardise any other serious investigation, this court is not in a position to accept the argument of the CBI in the facts of this case,” the court said.

The court, however, held in appropriate cases, it is always open for the CBI to establish that the information sought about a particular investigation is sensitive in nature, and on considering the nature of sensitivity involved and keeping in mind the object of Section 24 of the RTI Act, it is always open for the CPIO to refuse grant of such information. PTI SKV SKV SK

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