Prosecuting agency to decide whether information can be disclosed during pendency of a case
The appellant filed two applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking information concerning the cases of corruption against AICTE including its former Chairman /Secretary/ other officials/ other institutes. He also sought information related to the corruption cases against ex DG, OFB and some other officials and information related to the cases of Provident Fund (PF) scam against Hiranandani Construction Group and other such entities. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed the appellant about the status of the cases against these entities but refused to disclose further information on the ground that it would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders citing the provisions of 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 RTI Act.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that the information could not be denied to him merely because the matter was pending in various courts. The respondent argued that the CBI had instituted criminal cases against various entities and the cases were pending trial before various courts of law. The disclosure of the desired information at this stage would clearly impede the process of prosecution. The CBI also argued that it should not be compelled to disclose the information as it was already included in the Second Schedule to the Right to Information Act by a Government notification in June 2011.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the PIO has informed the appellant about the status of the cases pending against various entities listed in the RTI applications. The CIC also held that the appellant has sought extremely wide and vague information and without specifying any particular case and has left the responsibility of finding out the details to the PIO. The expression ‘et al’ illustrates how vague the information seeker is in the matter of describing his information need. The Commission further held that the cases launched by the CBI in these cases are pending before various courts of law and any disclosure would impede the prosecution of the offenders. The CIC ruled that once the records become part of any case filed in a court of law, they become part of the judicial records and the decision about the disclosure of such records during the pendency of the cases lies with the court itself. The CIC rejected the appeal stating that the prosecuting agency is best suited to decide whether the disclosure of any information during the pendency of a case would impede the process of prosecution or not.
Applicants should raise specific question in the applications and should restrain from seeking vague information under RTI.
Citation: Mr. Kishanlal Mittal v. Central Bureau of Investigation in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001264 & 1265
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1000
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission