Records seized by DRI are not liable to be disclosed under section 24 of the RTI Act
Two appellants sought copies of 21 documents in respect of a show cause notice bearing No. DRI F. No. IV/07/2009 to M/s. Vinayaka Hotel, Bubli and others for the alleged undervaluation of imported goods and consequential short payment of Customs Duties dealt in a particular file from the Office of the Commissioner of Customs. The Public Information Officer (PIO) transferred the application under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act to the Director General of Revenue Intelligence endorsing a copy of the said letter to the appellants as the records were in the custody of the said office. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) informed the PIO that under the provisions of Section 24 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005 DRI is beyond the purview of RTI Act and is not bound to produce the records sought for by the appellants. On appeal to the First Appellate Authority (FAA) of the Commissioner of Customs, the FAA directed the PIO to provide the available documents which were in his possession or obtain it from his subordinate office, if available. Thereafter, the PIO informed the appellants that the information sought was not held by his office or any of the subordinate offices falling under his purview as PIO.
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The Appellants submitted that the DRI is not correct in holding the view that the Section 24 of the Act could also apply to the documents seized by them under the provisions of the Customs Act as the copies of the documents requested were not the confidential documents of the DRI but documents seized from the noticee. The Commission noted that the respondent DRI is an exempted organization listed under Second Schedule of the RTI Act and, therefore, is not amenable to any provision contained in the RTI Act by virtue of Section 24 of the RTI Act. Furthermore, the information sought by the Appellants does not pertain to any violation of human rights and allegation of corruption, and therefore, does not fall under Proviso (I) to Section 24 of the RTI Act and the information sought by the Appellants is not in the custody of the respondent but in the custody of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, which is an exempted organization by virtue of Section 24 of the RTI Act. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed.
It has to be appreciated that “allegation of corruption” does not mean mere conjuncture and surmises. Allegations ought to be supported by cogent and sound evidence which can lead the Commission to frame a prima facie view about corrupt or malpractices being involved in any given case. Evidence or material of such an element has element has to placed by the appellants before the Commission to establish a case of corruption. In this case, the PIO of DRI ought to replied to the appellant rather than writing to the PIO of the Office of the Commissioner of Customs.
Citation: Shri G. Sampath & S. Raghu v. Office of the Commissioner of Customs in file no. CIC/SS/A/2011/001729
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/144
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