Photographs taken by CBI at the time of reconstruction of the crime scene - prosecution pending - refusal under section 8(1)(h) should be supported by reasons as to how the disclosure would hamper the pending prosecution
1. In respect of the visit of a crime team on 4 June 2011 to a particular place in the Baddi Police Station, the Appellant had sought a number of information including the copies of the photographs which the team had taken at the time of reconstruction of the crime scene. While the CPIO had provided some of the information regarding the travelling details of the officials of the team, he had refused to provide the photographs by claiming exemption 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. Not satisfied with this response, the Appellant had preferred an appeal. The Appellate Authority had disposed of his appeal by approving the stand taken by the CPIO and had concluded that the disclosure of the information would hamper the pending prosecution.
2. During the hearing, the Appellant submitted that this entire matter related to the murder of his daughter and that he was an interested party in the case and wanted to know these details as he suspected that the officials who had visited the crime scene and reconstructed it were taking the side of the accused. On the other hand, the respondent submitted that it was a CBI matter and the prosecution was pending and, hence, they had been advised by the CBI not to disclose any such information since that might impede the prosecution.
3. We have carefully considered the facts of the case. The only information which remains to be disclosed in this case is the set of photographs taken by the team when they visited the site for reconstruction of the crime scene. Neither the CPIO nor the Appellate Authority has given any conclusive or convincing reasons why he thinks that the disclosure of the photographs would impede the process prosecution. We find it very difficult to imagine how the disclosure of the photographs taken at the site by the team can have any adverse effect on any prosecution. After all, the photographs would only reveal what had happened at the time these were taken by the team. Therefore, we cannot agree with the findings of the Appellate Authority that the photographs should not be disclosed.
4. In the light of the above, we direct the CPIO to disclose the copies of the photographs taken on the site at the time of reconstruction of the crime scene within 10 working days of receiving this order. The photographs should be provided free of charge.
5. The appeal is disposed off accordingly.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Sh. B V K Ahluwalia v. Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Central Bureau of Investigation in CIC/SM/A/2013/000310