Ranjit Sinha row: Will bringing CBI under RTI improve credibility of the agency?

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CBI director Ranjit Sinha
Ever since CBI director's alleged rendezvous with scam accused at his residence came out in public, the demand to bring the national investigation agency under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has resurfaced. Presently, the premier agency is exempted from the RTI Act.

Few days back controversy sparked after it came to light that the CBI director Ranjit Sinha hosted and favoured some high-profile people being probed by the agency in connection with some scams. Advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted Sinha's visitor diary before the Supreme Court during a hearing in the 2G scam case.

In June, 2011, the CBI was suddenly exempted from ambit of RTI Act.

The diary evidently shows that many persons against whom investigations were being conducted made frequent visits to Sinha's house. Sinha, on his part, has not denied the visits, but questioned how Bhushan got the diary.

Sinha's contention has been that CBI is outside RTI, so the logbook could not have been procured through RTI. A news report has quoted Sinha as saying, 'It should be asked how such registers are reaching the petitioner because as far as the CBI is concerned, we are exempted from sharing information with individuals, even under the RTI Act.'

Sudden exemption of CBI from RTI Act raised eyebrows

In June, 2011, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was suddenly exempted from ambit of Right to Information Act. This was the time when scams were tumbling out of UPA's cupboard. The decision was taken following repeated requests by the agency on the grounds that it probed sensitive cases, and in doing so, it "becomes difficult for it to share information and also in accessing the information'.

Some are of views that then UPA Government exempted the agency from RTI Act so that people would not get information about the scams, the CBI was investigating, under RTI and to stop exposure of corruption taking place in the agency.

CBI is not an intelligence or security agency, so why an exemption?

Neither the Central Bureau of Investigation is an intelligence agency nor it is a security agency, so why it enjoy exemption from the RTI Act? We all know, it is a premier investigating agency which generally investigates cases related to scam and murder. Its works deal with public interest. Public needs to know step by step investigation in such cases rather than the final or concluding report. Many times, it has been alleged that the final report is changed under political pressure despite some honest investigation by junior level officers.

Undoubtedly, the recent controversy surrounding the CBI chief's conduct has cast a shadow not just on the agency's credibility but the system as a whole. But, this is not the first time agency's image has been dented. For the last 10 years, it has been called CBI as Congress Bureau of Investigation.

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