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Exempted Organisations Can’t Be Asked To Disclose Outcome Of Complaint About Money Laundering, Hawala Transactions Under RTI Act: Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
30 Jan 2023 1:15 PM GMT
Disclosure Of Interest Necessary Only When ‘Personal’ Information Sought Under RTI Act, Justice Prathiba M. Singh

The Delhi High Court has ruled that an exempted intelligence or security organisation under the Right to Information Act, 2005, cannot be asked to disclose the outcome of a complaint which does not relate to corruption or human rights violations.

Setting aside a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing the CPIO of Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) to consider providing outcome of a complaint to the appellant, Justice Prathiba M Singh said the information relating to money laundering business, hawala money transactions, tax evasion and smuggling activities do not relate to “corruption or human rights violations” and thus, they cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act.

Justice Singh said such an information would not be covered by the exception under proviso to section 24(1) of RTI Act. The provision exempts intelligence and security organisations from the purview of the Act. The proviso states that the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded, provided further that the information shall only be provided after approval of Central Information Commission (CIC) and shall be provided within 45 days from the date of receipt of request.

The court passed the verdict on a plea filed by CPIO of CEIB challenging the order passed by CIC on July 3, 2020 directing disclosure of certain information to G.S. Srinivasan, the RTI applicant.

Srinivasan had filed a complaint in May, 2017 seeking information relating to money laundering business, hawala money transactions, smuggling and tax evasion from CEIB. The information related to certain individuals who were named in the complaint.

CPIO on January 1, 2018 refused to disclose the information on the ground that the same is exempted under Section 24(1) read with Schedule II of the Act. The order was affirmed by CEIB’s Appellate Authority on February 27, 2018.

In appeal, CIC passed the impugned order wherein it observed that though the details of the investigation cannot be provided, CEIB can consider providing only the outcome of the complaint to Srinivasan, within a period of 15 days.

Noting that Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) is listed at serial number 4 in Schedule II of the RTI Act under the heading Intelligence and Security Organisation established by the Central Government, Justice Singh said Section 24(1) makes it clear that the RTI Act would not apply to the organizations which are specified in the Schedule II of the Act.

“Thus, considering the fact that the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau is clearly exempted under Section 24(1) read with Schedule II of the RTI Act, the direction of the CIC to provide the outcome of the complaint to the Respondent/ RTI Applicant is not sustainable and the same would be contrary to law. Accordingly, the said finding and direction of the CIC is set aside,” the court said.


Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 96

Click Here To Read Order

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