Holding that the CBI is bound to share information relating to corruption or human rights violation, irrespective of whether the information pertains to the CBI or its officers or to other persons under its scanner, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has advised the CBI Director to "appreciate the necessity of sensitizing their CPIOs regarding the scope and ambit of RTI Act and that of Section 24 in particular".
Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha has asked the CBI Director to sensitize its Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) about the RTI Act and the contours of Section 24 as in response to an RTI plea seeking information about corruption complaint against an officers of Indian Oil Corporation, the CPIO had responded that the CBI is exempt from the RTI Act and is obliged to provide information relating to allegations of corruption against its own employees and not regarding cases of corruption being investigated by the CBI.
Section 24 provides that intelligence and security organisations are exempt from the RTI Act but if the information sought from them pertains to corruption or human rights violation, the same is not exempt from the exclusion clause and has to be provided under the RTI Act.
"The incorrect connotation ascribed by the CPIO to the proviso to Section 24(1) of RTI Act that it is only applicable to cases involving CBI's own employees may result in gross violation of the provisions of RTI Act by the Respondent office in future. In this regard, a copy of this order is marked to the Director, CBI advising him to appreciate the necessity of sensitizing their CPIOs regarding the scope and ambit of RTI Act and that of Section 24 in particular by way of appropriate workshops, etc.," ordered the commission.
In the instant case, the complainant had sought details of action taken on the complaint dated 08.04.2017 regarding alleged irregularities committed during allotment of LPG distributorship by officers of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. at Kishangarh Renwal, Tehsil Sambhar, Jaipur, and in particular against Ranjeet Singh.
With no response, he moved the CIC.
Before the Commission, a representative of the CPIO claimed an exemption under Section 24 RTI Act and said the Act is not applicable to the organization except where specific allegations of corruption and/or human rights violation have been made.
He further referred to the written submissions of the CPIO dated 30.04.2019 sent to the Commission wherein it had been submitted that CPIO, CBI, is obliged to provide information relating to an allegation of corruption against its own employees and not regarding cases of corruption being investigated by the CBI.
Besides this, the CBI added that the appellant has been persistently filing complaints against one officer of IOCL since the year 2012.
The commission, however, held that the argument of the CBI that it is only obliged to provide information relating to an allegation of corruption against its own employees does not hold good.
The commission referred to the Delhi High Court judgment in CPIO, Intelligence Bureau vs Sanjiv Chaturvedi, wherein it was held that: "The plain reading of the proviso shows that the exclusion is applicable with regard to any information. The term "any information" would include within its ambit all kinds of information. The proviso becomes applicable if the information pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation. The proviso is not qualified and conditional on the information being related to the exempt intelligence and security organizations. If the information sought, furnished by the exempt intelligence and security organizations, pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause".
The high court had concluded that "the only conclusion that can be drawn is that, if the information sought pertains to allegation of corruption and human right violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause, irrespective of the fact that the information pertains to the exempt intelligence and security organizations or not or pertains to an Officer of the Intelligence Bureau or not".
Referring to the observation made by the high court, the commission said, "The aforesaid ratio laid down with respect to the Intelligence Bureau is squarely applicable to the case of CBI also."
While directing the CBI Director to sensitise its CPIOs, the commission disposed of the appeal, finding no material to support the claim of the appellant that the subject matter pertained to corruption.
Read the Order Here