'DVAC not exempt from RTI Act on corruption-related queries'

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Chennai, April 14: The Madras High Court has held that a Tamil Nadu Government order exempting the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) from the purview of the RTI Act would not apply to applications related to information on corruption.

A division bench comprising justices D Murugesan and K K Sasidharan held in a recent ruling that the power to exempt from the law was not available to the state government even in case of intelligence and security organisations in cases where information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations was sought.

The application of the government order exempting DVAC depended on the nature of information required, it held.

The bench was upholding a single judges direction to DVAC to furnish the information sought by two RTI activists seeking details about conviction of accused in the four-year period since 2004 and about police officials caught by the agency on corruption charges.

"In an increasingly knowledge-based society, information and access to information holds the key to resources, benefits and distribution of power. Information, more than any other element, is of critical importance in a participatory democracy", the court held.

The RTI applicants had sought particulars from DVAC regarding the number of investigations completed, details of persons convicted in four years from 2003-04, posts held by them, charges framed and recommendations made to the Vigilance Commissioner after investigation.

The activists also wanted to know how many police officials were implicated during raids, their names, designation and address, amount recovered from each official and details of departmental action against them.

DVAC had refused to provide the details on the ground that the RTI Act would not apply to DVAC as per an order issued by the state government of August 26, 2008. Later, the applicants approached the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission, which directed DVAC to furnish the information.

TNSIC's order was challenged by DVAC in the High Court. By a January 12, 2010 order, a single judge had dismissed the DVAC petition, following which it filed the appeal.

PTI

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