Departmental inquiry against official for providing confidential information
An application was filed with the Department of Home Affairs, Maharashtra under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking to get some information pertaining to the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA).
The Under-secretary (state home department) provided the demanded information to the RTI applicant. The same information was used by the applicant in a Supreme Court case following which the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) learnt the information was classified and should not have been provided to the applicant. The CEIB then sent a letter to the Maharashtra government alerting it about the situation and asking it to initiate action against the erring home department official.
The state home department proposed a departmental inquiry against the official which was approved by the home minister of the state. The preliminary inquiry into the incident revealed that the official had not followed all the rules while providing information under the RTI Act following which departmental inquiry was initiated against him.
However, the said official stated that he had followed all the procedures while sharing the crucial information. Section 21 of the RTI Act provides protection of action taken in good faith. It says “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or any rule made thereunder”. Hence, action can be taken against the official only if it is proved that he disclosed information with mala fide intention.