A petition challenging government’s decision in 2011 to keep the Central Bureau of Investigation out of the purview of Right To Information Act has been filed in the Supreme Court.
Petitioner and advocate Ajay Agrawal had first filed the petition in Delhi High Court, but later transferred to the Supreme Court after the Centre had said that several petitions in this regard have been filed in different high courts across the country.
Agrawal, who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Rai Bareilly constituency against Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
The high court, in July 2011, had issued notices to the government and the CBI on the plea.
The advocate alleged that the agency was brought out of the ambit of the RTI as he had sought information regarding documents relating to the politically-sensitive Bofors payoff scandal case.
The government had told the high court that the exemption granted to the CBI under RTI was not a blanket exemption and does not warrant judicial interference.
The petition said that exemption from RTI was prevalent for intelligence and security organisations, including Intelligence Bureau, RAW, DRI and ED. When the agency filed the plea for transfer of all similar matters from different high courts to the apex court, the proceedings before the Delhi High Court got stayed. In the fresh application before the apex court,
“Under Section 24(2) of the RTI Act, the Central Government was given the power to inter alia amend the Second Schedule by notification in the Official Gazette by including therein any other intelligence or security organization established by that Government, or by omitting therefrom such organization which is already specified. Given the stature and mandate of CBI, it does not seem plausible that the Parliament could have inadvertently omitted to include CBI in the Second Schedule when the RTI Act was being enacted. In fact, it may be inferred that it was certainly not the intent of the Parliament to include investigating agencies within the purview of Section 24(1) of the RTI Act”, the petition said.
Agrawal has alleged that the notification was issued by the Centre solely to scuttle the RTI appeal pending before the Chief Information Commissioner, New Delhi in regard to the Bofors case in which order was passed by the CIC directing the CBI to provide the requisite papers to the petitioner.
Recently Delhi High Court directed the CBI to consider the application of an RTI activist seeking information about corruption within the central investigating body and action taken into allegations made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of shady probe into the coal-gate scam pursuant to a news report.
The Agency claimed that it is included in the second schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005 and, by virtue of section 24(1) of the Act, is exempt from the purview of the Act.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed that it is apparent from the plain reading of the first proviso to Section 24(1) of the Act that information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation are not excluded from the purview.