Reports And Dossiers Of Intelligence Agencies Can’t Be Disclosed Under RTI Act, State Police ATS Exempted: Delhi High Court
The Delhi High Court on Friday observed that the reports and dossiers prepared by intelligence agencies cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said that major public interest is in protecting safety and security of the country and not in disclosing such reports.
“Reports and dossiers by intelligence authorities, which are subject matter of investigation cannot be disclosed under RTI, especially if they compromise the sovereignty or integrity of the country,” the court said.
The court made the observations while dismissing a plea of Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique, a death row convict in Mumbai Twin Blast case (7/11 Bomb Blast case), challenging an order passed by Central Information Commission (CIC) denying certain information to him.
Siddique had sought information about report or dossier prepared by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh Governments in 2006 and 2009 respectively regarding investigation in the bomb blast case. The basis of information sought was a report in “The Indian Express” newspaper dated February 25, 2017.
Siddique was convicted under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 and National Investigation Act, 2008. He is presently serving his sentence in Nagpur Central Prison since July, 2006.
The counsel appearing for Siddique submitted that the CPIO had initially relied upon only section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act to reject the disclosure of information. However, before the CIC, sections 8(1)(h) and 24 were also relied upon. It was submitted that such a position is not permissible.
It was also contended that the reliance on section 8(1)(h) was completely misplaced as the investigation was already concluded and Siddique’s conviction had already taken place. The court was informed that confirmation of his conviction is pending before the Bombay High Court.
On the other hand, the counsel appearing for MHA’s CPIO submitted that Siddique was involved in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the country and that the entire RTI application was based on a newspaper report.
It was contended that the report or dossier cannot be severed in the manner as was argued by Siddique as they may contain various facts over which the investigation may be still underway. It was thus submitted that since the investigation is incomplete, the same cannot be disclosed under section 8(1)(h) of RTI Act.
Dismissing the plea, the court said the fact that an investigation qua a particular individual may have been concluded would not in any manner mean that the same has been concluded finally.
“Such reports could be having a major bearing on India’s sovereignty and integrity. There can be no doubt that terrorist terrorist activities affect the integrity of a country and they also compromise India's safety and also the safety of its citizens and security of the country,” it said.
Justice Singh also observed that an anti terrorist squad of a state police would be an organization covered under Section 24 of RTI Act which exempts application of the enactment on “certain organizations”.
“If such a report by an anti terrorist squad is not revealed to an RTI applicant, it is obviously in the interest of the country and this approach also cannot be faulted of the CIC. The case of the petitioner who has undergone a MOCOCA trial and whose appeal is pending before the Bombay High Court would not be a case where under RTI, the information which affects the security and sovereignty of the country can be disclosed in this manner,” the court said.
Observing that the order passed by CIC cannot be faulted with, the court rejected the plea.
Rahul Sharma, Central Government counsel and Advocate C.K.Bhatt represented the CPIO, MHA (Internal Security Division).
Title: Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique v. Cpio, Ministry Of Home Affairs
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 117