Proviso to Section 24 of RTI Act applies to all cases of corruption or human rights violation
In a recent judgment, the Delhi High Court has given a broad interpretation of the proviso to the Section 24 of the RTI Act. This would enable applicants to obtain information in cases of intelligence & security organization which are otherwise beyond the purview of the RTI Act.
Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, IFS, had sought the information such as - file noting/documents, correspondences/all type of reports between Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Department of Personnel & Training, Cabinet Secretariat and Appointment Committee of Cabinet, regarding his own interstate Cadre Transfer, Deputy Secretary AIIMS, New Delhi from Haryana to Uttrakhand.
After receipt of the documents, Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi requested for supply of the IB report on the ground that a mention had been made in the file noting /correspondences of an IB report about him. The gist of the said report had been reproduced in the file noting. It was contended that the information contained in the IB report pertained only to him and was not about anyone else and further had no connection with the national securities or relation with foreign countries.
Reply of CPIO
The CPIO, MoEF declined supply of copy of the IB report on the ground that the same was exempted from disclosure in terms of Section 24 of the Act.
Order of CIC
Upon being denied the copy of the IB report, Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi approached the Central Information Commission. Vide order dated 21.04.2016, the Central Information Commission (CIC) held that the copy of the report of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), concerning Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, is information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation and is, thus, liable to be given to him.
Discussions before Delhi High Court
Before the Delhi High Court, it was contended on behalf of the petitioner that the exception carved out by the proviso to Section 24, which, specifies “information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-Section” would apply only if the allegation of corruption or human rights violations were within the Intelligence Bureau or pertaining to an Officer of the Intelligence Bureau. It is contended that only in case the allegations of corruption or human rights violation were relatable specifically to the officers of the Intelligence Bureau would the exceptions carved out by the proviso apply. It is argued that the exception would have no application in case the allegations of corruption or human rights violation pertain to organization other than the Intelligence Bureau, in respect of which the report was submitted.
It is further contended that no allegations were made with regard to corruption or human rights violation by the officers of the Intelligence Bureau and the allegations were with regard to the Department where the respondent was serving. Since the IB report had been with regard to the organization where the respondent was serving, the same did not come within the purview of the exceptions carved out by the proviso to Section 24 of the Act.
CIC found that Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi was put to extreme hardship by the corrupt political rulers and corrupt public servants in retaliation of his unstinted Implementation of rule of law. CIC further found that the gist of IB report as furnished by IB in response to the RTI request of appellant shows that its disclosure could cause no harm to core activity of security or intelligence of IB. The IB report is information as per Section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; held by MoEF and the information pertains to allegation of corruption and human rights violation.
Order of High Court
The High Court has ruled that if the information sought pertains to allegation of corruption and human right violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause, irrespective of the fact that the information pertains to the exempt intelligence and security organizations or not or pertains to an Officer of the Intelligence Bureau or not.
The High Court has held that the information sought by the Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi falls in the category of being exempt from the exclusion clause and is liable to be supplied.
Please find the full HIGH COURT ORDER in the link below
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2017/CIC/1486
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission