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CBI Not Liable To Furnish Information Under RTI Act, Exempted U/S 24: Kerala High Court

Athira Prasad
7 Nov 2022 9:02 AM GMT
CBI Not Liable To Furnish Information Under RTI Act, Exempted U/S 24: Kerala High Court
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The Kerala High Court recently observed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is not liable to furnish any information sought under the RTI Act, as it is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the RTI Act which exempts certain organisations from the Act.

As per Section 24 of the RTI Act, the Act shall not apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organizations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organizations to that Government. [Information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations are not exempted.]

Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that as per a notification issued by the Government in 2011, CBI, NIA and National Intelligence Grid are included in the Second Schedule to RTI Act, and therefore, CBI is not liable to furnish any information.

Therefore, it can be seen that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the said organization is not liable to furnish any information.

Brief Factual Matrix

The matter in the Writ Appeal relates to the dismissal of an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and confirmation of the same by the appellate authorities.

The retirement benefits of the appellant were withheld on the basis of a case filed by the Deputy Director, CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureau (3rd respondent), alleging that while clearing certain sundry goods baggage of NRI Labourers, a proper assessment was not done by him for monetary benefits, while he was working in the unaccompanied Baggage section, Air Cargo, Trivandrum. The Appellant alleged that the officers working under the 3rd respondent manipulated the statements under Section 161 of CrPC of three passengers and on a complaint filed by the appellant before the Director, CBI an enquiry against the Investigating Officer was conducted and a report was submitted.

The appellant averred that despite his request for the issuance of a copy of the enquiry report, as it has a crucial impact on proving his innocence, he was not provided with the same. Thereby, the appellant filed an application under RTI Act, 2005, for securing a copy of the report. The Application, as well as an appeal filed before the appellate authorities, were rejected, which was challenged before the Single bench.

A single bench, after considering various contentions raised by the parties, rejected the petition. Aggrieved by the order, the present appeal was preferred.

Contentions

The Counsel appearing for the Appellant, Advocate M.A. Baby, submitted that the enquiry report is vital for proving the allegations levelled against him as unsustainable at the pre-trial stage itself. The main contention raised by the Counsel was that no reason was cited for rejecting the application by the primary authority. It was further contended that the first appellate authority, as well as the second appellate authority, has denied the information without assigning any reason at all, and therefore the orders passed by the authorities under the RTI Act are wrong in law.

Deputy Solicitor General Advocate S. Manu, appearing for the respondents, submitted that the information sought by the appellant comes under one of the exempted categories provided under Section 8 of the Act, 2005, and the respondents are privileged to withhold information by virtue of the protection granted under Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005. Furthermore, it was also contended that the appellant was not entitled to secure a copy of the enquiry report, especially in view of the notification issued by the Government in 2011 in this regard.

DSG also pointed out that even though a contention is advanced by the appellant that the enquiry report is required in order to seek discharge at the initial stage of the proceedings before the CBI Court, the appellant is not entitled to seek any such relief relying upon a third party document.

Before the Division Bench

The Court observed that the notification issued by the Government in 2011 makes it clear that in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 24(2) of the RTI Act, the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid are included in the second schedule to the RTI Act, 2005, and therefore it is clear that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005, the said organization is not liable to furnish any information.

...notification issued by the Government dated 09.06.2011 makes it clear that in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-Section 2 of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid are included in the second schedule to the Act, 2005. Therefore, it can be seen that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the said organization is not liable to furnish any information.

Furthermore, the Court pointed out that as per Section 8(i)(b) of the RTI Act, any information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders is exempted from disclosure and as per Section 8(1)(j) of Act, 2005, there is no obligation to give information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless otherwise satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.

Also, noting that the information sought by the appellant is third-party information only for his purpose, which is not permitted as per the provisions of RTI Act, the Court observed that the authorities are justified in declining the information.

Thereby, the Court rejected the Appeal.

Case Title: S. Rajeev Kumar v. The Director, Central Bureau of Investigation

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 572

Click Here To Read/ Download The Order



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