How will disclosure of Mallya's extradition expenses impede hisprosecution: CIC asks CBI
New Delhi, Sep 1: The Central Information Commission has directed the CBI to explain how disclosure of expenses incurred on the extradition of Vijay Mallya will hamper his pending apprehension and prosecution.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had refused to share the information under the RTI Act about legal and other expenses incurred on Mallya's extradition from the United Kingdom where he had escaped in 2016 after the agency diluted a look out circular against him in 2015.
Mallya is contesting his extradition in the UK courts. Through his RTI application, Pune-based activist Vihar Durve had sought information from the CBI on six points including total legal expenditure and consultation fees (in India and abroad); total travelling expenditure; names of lawyers to whom fee were paid by the government to extradite Mallya.
The agency tried to shield itself from disclosure citing exemption given to it from the RTI under Section 24 and Section 8(1)(h) of the Act. The Section 24 exempts security and intelligence organisations listed in the second schedule including the CBI from "anything" contained in the RTI Act.
However, the proviso in the Section says disclosure of any material in any form held by the organisation pertaining to "allegations" of corruption and human rights violation is to decided on the basis of the provisions of the RTI Act.
The Delhi High Court has ruled that "allegations" need not be against the officials of the agency exempted from the RTI Act. The proviso implies that decision of disclosure of allegations of corruption has to be taken on the basis of provisions of the RTI Act which had exemption clauses allowing an organisation to withhold information if it meets the given criteria.
Section 8(1)(h) allows an organisation to withhold information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. The Delhi High Court has said when an organisation cited the Section to deny information they must give reasons to justify as disclosure is norm while exemption is an exception. When the matter reached the CIC, highest adjudicating body on RTI matters, the CBI cited Section 24 and Section 8(1)(h) saying adjudication in cases against Mallya is still pending hence information cannot be disclosed.
Durve strongly contested the arguments of the agency saying CPIO has wrongly invoked Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act without justifying as to how the information sought in the present RTI application shall impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. He further stated that the information sought pertains to corruption since Mallya has been involved in corrupt practices as well as duped banks to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore.
"Commission observes that the Rep. of CPIO has raised a new issue of exemption under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act during hearing. Commission directs him to send a written submission highlighting the factum as to how the information sought in the instant RTI Application is exempt under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act...," Sinha said.