13 April 2023 7:12 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has disapproved the observations made by Delhi High Court in a judgement passed last year wherein it had said that non-supply of service-related information under RTI Act to an employee of a security establishment can be called a human rights violation. While ruling that the Enforcement Directorate, as an intelligence and security organization, is exempt from...
The Supreme Court has disapproved the observations made by Delhi High Court in a judgement passed last year wherein it had said that non-supply of service-related information under RTI Act to an employee of a security establishment can be called a human rights violation.
While ruling that the Enforcement Directorate, as an intelligence and security organization, is exempt from the purview of RTI Act except when the information pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation, a division bench of the high court had said that the expression ‘human rights’ cannot be given a narrow or pedantic meaning. The employees of a security establishment cannot be deprived of their fundamental and legal rights just because they work in an intelligence and security establishment, the high court had said.
The decision was challenged before the Supreme Court by Union of India, which was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The matter before the apex court was heard by a bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar.
Though the appeal filed by ED against the Delhi High Court decision was not entertained, the Supreme Court decided to leave the question of law open and expressed disapproval of the high court's reasoning.
Referring specifically to the high court's observations that the “information sought can be said to pertaining to the human rights violations”, Justice Shah-led bench said:
"Though, we do not approve the reasoning given by the High Court, however, taking into consideration the fact that what was sought was the service record, namely, seniority list and copies of the proposal for promotion of the Lower Division Clerks placed before the DPC, keeping the question of law open, whether on other aspects or with respect to other information whether RTI Act shall be applicable to the appellant or not, we do not entertain the present Special Leave Petition in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the documents sought."
The case before the high court pertained to the RTI request of a Superintendent in Administration with the ED. She had sought copies of all the seniority list in respect of LDCs for the period of 1991 till date, and copies of the proposal for promotion of LDCs placed before the DPC together with copies of the Minutes of the Meetings and copies of the promotion orders issued on the recommendations of the DPC from time to time. The Central Information Commission had earlier directed the ED to disclose the information to the employee.
The ED had argued before the apex court that though it had no objection to the supply of information asked for but the observations required interference by the Supreme Court. The central agency further contended that Section 24(1) of the RTI Act expressly excludes intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule of the Act from the purview of the Act.
While Section 24(1) of the RTI Act does specify that the law does not to apply to certain organisations, which include intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, it also has a proviso, which clarifies that "the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded" under Section 24(1).
The high court bench comprising Justice Manmohan and Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain had observed that non-supply of the information or documents is a human rights violation of the employee as in the absence of the same she would not be able to agitate her right to promotion. RTI Act is a tool which facilitates the employees and officers in airing their grievances systematically, it had observed in the ruling.
"It is settled law that employees have a legitimate expectation of promotion. It is not the case of the Appellant that its employees and officers cannot file legal proceedings to air their grievances with regard to service conditions and wrongful denial of promotions. The intent of service jurisprudence at the level of any establishment/organization is to promote peace and harmony and at the level of the society, the objective is to promote human rights. If employees of an establishment cannot agitate their grievances before judicial forums, these organizations/establishments may become autocratic," the high court had said.
Case Title: Union of India v. Central Information Commission & Anr | SLP (C) Diary No(s). 5557/2023
Click Here To Read Order