Letter received from Ghana in relation to export of non Basmati rice - Ghana authorities had specifically requested not to disclose the contents as it could impede the investigation underway in their country - CIC: disclosure exempt u/s 8(1)(a) & 8(1)(f)
1. The Appellant had sought a number of information relating to the case of export of non Basmati rice from India, specially to Ghana and the various charges of corruption levelled against that transaction. His RTI application had been handled both in the MEA and the Ministry of Commerce. The CPIO concerned from each of these two ministries had separately responded to the Appellant and provided some information each. The Appellant had appealed against the information provided by the CPIO of the Ministry of Commerce. However, it seems, instead of the Appellate Authority, the CPIO once again wrote to him and reiterated the same information she had sent earlier.
2. During the hearing, the Appellant mainly argued for two items of information, namely, (a) the copy of the letter received from Ghana dated 13 August 2009 and (b) the list of persons/bodies found involved in corrupt practices in export of nonBasmati rice. The CPIO had refused to disclose the information on the ground that investigation into the matter was still underway and, therefore, the information was exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(h) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. As far as the list of persons/bodies involved in this entire matter is concerned, we think it would be a little premature to disclose this information before the investigation is complete and the matter is brought to finality. We direct the CPIO in the Ministry of Commerce to revisit the records and to disclose the desired information within 10 working days of receiving this order, only if the investigation/prosecution in the matter is complete. Otherwise, he need not give any such information.
3. As far as the letter dated 13 August 2009 received from the Republic of Ghana is concerned, the respondent representing the MEA produced the letter for our perusal and submitted that the authorities from Ghana had specifically requested not to disclose the contents of the letter to anyone since it could impede the investigation underway in their country. We think that it is reason enough not to disclose this information. Such information is protected from disclosure under the provision of section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; and section 8(1)(f) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information received in confidence from foreign Government; of the RTI Act.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Sh. Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Ministry of External Affairs in File No.CIC/SM/A/2013/000779