Amendment in the names of the agencies exempted under the RTI Act
The government has made changes in the schedule II to the Right to Information Act to correct the names of two intelligence organisations which are beyond the purview of the transparency law. As per the amendment notified by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the ‘Aviation Research Centre of the Cabinet Secretariat’ and ‘Special Frontier Force of the Cabinet Secretariat’ have been incorporated in the Schedule II to RTI Act. These organisations existed in the list of exempted agencies earlier too but the names mentioned in the notification were Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and Special Frontier Force (SFF) respectively. No reasons or clarification were given by the DoPT for the amendment. It appeared that the changes were made to show allegiance of the two organisations to the Cabinet Secretariat.
The SFF was raised at the end of the Indo-China war in 1962 while the ARC is the air wing of the intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Both the ARC and SFF are listed amongst the intelligence and security agencies which are exempt from providing information under the RTI Act except in cases related to corruption or human rights violation.
The number of applications received by ARC and SFF during the last year is not known. According to the annual report of the Central Information Commission for the year 2012-2013, the Cabinet Secretariat is said to have rejected only 18 RTI applications under Section 24.
As per section 24 (2) of the RTI Act, “The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, amend the Schedule by including therein any other intelligence or security organisation established by that Government or omitting therefrom any organisation already specified therein and on the publication of such notification, such organisation shall be deemed to be included in or, as the case may be, omitted from the Schedule”.
Further, as per section 24 (3), “Every notification issued under sub-section (2) shall be laid before each House of Parliament”.