PMO Says Collating Info On Corruption Complaints Against Union Ministers ‘Cumbersome Exercise’, Revealing Info On Black Money Will ‘Impede’ Probe
Even as the BJP claims to have given a corruption-free government, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has, in response to a query on all complaints submitted to the Prime Minister on corruption charges against serving Central ministers, taken shelter under Section 7(9) of the RTI Act.
Section 7(9) provides that, “An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question”.
In October, the PMO was directed by the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) to disclose corruption complaints submitted to the Prime Minister against serving Central ministers on charges of corruption from June 1, 2014 to August 5, 2017, along with action taken on these complaints besides the quantum of black money brought back to India.
The PMO had earlier denied the information to applicant whistle-blower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi who had also sought to know the amount of black money brought back home from abroad, besides requesting a meeting with the Prime Minister and seeking action in corruption unearthed by him in AIIMS as its CVO and the role of Health Minister JP Nadda in it.
In compliance with the CIC order, the PMO sent him a reply this month which has no details and invokes Section 7(9) of the Act.
“This office receives complaints against various Union Ministers/ high-level functionaries from time to time. These include pseudonymous and anonymous complaints. The complaints so received are duly examined keeping in view the veracity of the allegations and supporting documents.
“After taking the needful action, the records are not kept in any single master file or collated and kept in one place. These are scattered across different sectors and units of this office,” said the PMO.
“These complaints received relate to a variety of matters including corruption-related and non-corruption related matters. The applicant in his application has only sought details of all corruption related complaints.
“To identify, examine and categorize each of these complaints as corruption-related complaints maybe a subjective as well as a cumbersome exercise. In view of the above, the collation of information sought will require the undertaking of a thorough search of numerous files. Such an exercise will disproportionately divert the resources of the office from the normal discharge of its functions and attract the provisions of section 7(9) of The Right to Information Act,” it said.
On Chaturvedi’s query about the quantum and value of black money brought from abroad since June 1, 2014, along with all documents related to efforts made by the Prime Minister's Office or the Central government in this regard, the PMO said that an SIT has already been formed and its investigation process is underway. As such disclosure of all the action/efforts undertaken by the government at this juncture may impede the whole process or apprehension or prosecution of the offenders, it would attract the provision of exemption under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act.
On the information regarding the deposition of black money into accounts of citizens of the country, the PMO replied such investigations come under the purview of different government intelligence and security organisations which have been excluded from the ambit of the RTI Act.
It is to be noted that the Prime Minister had, in his election campaign in the year 2014, said he would bring back the black money stashed abroad and deposit Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every Indian citizen.
To a query about the amount spent by the Centre on all advertisements related to publicity from June 6, 2014, the RTI response said the query has already been transferred to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on October 29, 2018.
Regarding the status of his request for an appointment with the Prime Minister wide letters dated September 26 and December 5, and action taken on his letter regarding request for action against officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for sending a false report to the office of Prime Minister and regarding corruption in AIIMS and the role of JP Nadda, the PMO replied that the information has already been provided to him and that appointments with the Prime Minister are fixed pending upon availability of time, convenience and subject matter of the request.