The Central Information Commission (CIC) has held the special investigation team on black money a ‘public authority’ as per the Right to Information Act.
Venkatesh Nayak had approached the commission praying to recognize the special investigation team (SIT) on black money of the Department of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance as a ‘public authority’ within the terms of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, and a direction to the authority to appoint a CPIO.
The commission observed that though the definition of ‘public authority’ u/s 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005, does not prescribe “performance of public duty” as one of the criteria for determining if an authority is “public authority” or not, yet performance of such duty by the authority, (in the present instance the duty of bringing back unaccounted money unlawfully kept in bank accounts abroad) cannot be undermined to not be considered as an important public duty by the SIT, which qualifies as a public authority as per the tests laid down in the first part to Section 2 (h) (d) of the RTI Act, 2005.
Information Commissioner Bimal Julka observed: “When a Public Authority is largely funded by the Government and performs the duty of bringing back unaccounted money unlawfully kept in bank accounts abroad, it was essentially performing a Public Duty and thus every citizen has every right to know about certain information within the framework of the RTI Act, 2005.”
The commission also added that it would be just and appropriate to declare the SIT a public authority, more so for the reason that it was performing a pious public duty bestowed upon it by the Supreme Court of bringing back unaccounted money in foreign bank accounts by Indians or other entities operating in India.