PMO denies the information to IFS whistle-blower Sanjiv Chaturvedi
In 2010, the Union Ministry of Environment formed a panel to probe the scams alleged by Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Indian Forest Service Officer, after he pleaded with the President for help. The committee found prima facie collusion of senior officials and politicians of Haryana in the scams and in its report, recommended a CBI inquiry which was also endorsed by the Central Vigilance Commission.
However, as the CBI inquiry could not be initiated without state’s concurrence which was wanting, the Union environment ministry used the Presidential orders under the All India Services rules to protect him against illegal decisions of the state government in 2008, 2011, 2013 and in 2014. A confidential note by the Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and in-charge of the department of personnel and training (DoPT) V Narayansamy to the PMO that the environment ministry had made a mistake in constituting the 2010 inquiry into the scams terming it ‘ultra-vires’ went against Chaturvedi. The copy of the note was provided to an officer indicted by the environment ministry report under RTI. Since then, Chaturvedi has been using the RTI Act to find out the background process that went behind this confidential note of the PMO being provided to the indicted officer.
Now the PMO has replied to the RTI applicant claiming that it has the right to not reveal internal government documents using which an applicant may initiate civil or criminal proceedings in court against the government or officials for alleged illegal and unconstitutional acts. The reply says that the government is a “third party” in the case, and would prefer to keep the information confidential as the officer had threatened to go to court against officers of the PMO and the DoPT who he alleged had colluded with the Haryana government against him.
The reply says that “Confidentiality can thus be deepened to be inherently implicit in the case ....... Clearly, the government cannot be compelled to give documents on the basis of which certain internal decisions were taken for instituting the litigation against itself.”
While the line of defence a private individual is permitted under the law in denying potentially self-incriminating evidence is accepted in law, can it be used to protect officers against alleged acts of corruption?