RTI: Govt wants to put lid on complaints against CBI staff

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New Delhi, July 8: Inquiry proceedings against CBI officers would be exempted from the purview of the Right to Information Act if the Government's suggestions on the working of proposed accountability commission materialise, a step which has come under criticism from RTI activists.

According to the Right to Information Act, allegations of corruption and human rights violation are to be disclosed even in the case of organisations exempted from the transparency law like CBI, Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing.

The Centre, which was directed by the Supreme Court to come up with steps to free CBI from external influences, has now proposed an accountability commission among other suggestions to probe complaints against the officials of the agency.

"Notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005 or any other law for the time being in force, all papers, documents and records of the proceedings related to a complaint and the inquiry shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed by any person in any proceeding except as directed by the Commission," the government had said in the affidavit before the Supreme Court.

It has proposed that only the findings and the directions on such complaints can be made public that too after permission from the Commission.

The proposals given by the Centre would be heard by the Supreme Court on July 10.

Explaining the existing provision, Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra in a recent order had said Section 24 of the RTI Act, which exempts security and intelligence organisations from the legislation, allows disclosure of information pertaining to allegations of corruption if they are against employees of the exempted organisations or otherwise.

Venkatesh Nayak, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, alleged that the government is attempting to reduce the scope of the Right to Information Act, which is kind of fundamental right of the citizens, and the Central Information Commission by proposing such measures.

"There are enough provisions in Section eight of the RTI Act which protect information about ongoing investigations from being disclosed. Besides, CIC is the final arbiter as far as disclosure of information under the act is concerned. With proposed accountability commission, CIC would not be able to adjudicate the matters related to CBI " he said.

Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi termed it as a regressive position taken by the Government.

"It (the affidavit) is a statement from the government saying that we do not common citizen to expose corruption. By taking out information from the purview of the RTI Act, the Government has accepted that bringing RTI Act was a mistake and it does not want corruption to come out in open," he said.

Gandhi told PTI that after bringing CBI in the second schedule of section 24 of the RTI Act, citizens could seek information only pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation which would also be now taken out from the reach of the common citizens.

Government's move to make changes in the working of CBI comes after Supreme Court criticised the agency for sharing its draft status report with the then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials of the PMO and Coal Ministry.

The Supreme Court had indicted CBI for being a "caged parrot" of its political masters while hearing a case related to irregularities in coal blocks allocation and directed the government to make an effort to come out with a law to insulate CBI from external influence and intrusion.

Following the directions, Government had constituted a Group of Ministers to come up with an affidavit which was last week filed before Supreme Court.

PTI

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