Representation alleging corruption in the Indian Mission in Baghdad – copies of file noting and correspondence denied u/s 8(1)(a) – CIC perused the file – part of notesheet to be disclosed
1. The Appellant had sent a representation dated 28 August 2012 to the Foreign Secretary alleging, among other things, corruption and financial irregularities in the Indian Mission in Baghdad. In his RTI application, he had wanted not only the photocopy of the first page of his representation with whatever notings made on it but also the copies of all other file noting and correspondence made in regard to that representation. The CPIO had provided a copy of the first page of the representation but had refused to disclose the remaining information on the ground that it was exempted under the provisions of section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Not satisfied with this reply, the Appellant had preferred an appeal. The Appellate Authority had disposed of the appeal by upholding the decision of the CPIO.
2. During the hearing, the Appellant argued that he had levelled clear allegations of financial misdemeanour and corruption in the Indian Mission in Baghdad and, therefore, it was not an issue of security or foreign relations and the information should be disclosed. The Respondents produced the relevant file for the perusal of the Commission. The file contains in all a number of representations of the Appellant including the one dated 28 August 2012, and a single page of file noting. Having carefully gone through the contents of that file noting, we are of the view that only the paragraph 3 of that page can be disclosed since this has information on the allegations of corruption and financial misdemeanour alleged by the Appellant. The first two paragraphs, however, contain information having clear security implications and should not be disclosed in public interest. In addition to paragraph 3, if any further action has been taken on these allegations, there is no evidence of that in this particular file but it is possible that this might be available with some other division of the MEA.
3. Keeping the above in view, we direct the CPIO to disclose the paragraph 3 of the above file noting to the Appellant within 10 working days of receiving this order. He is also directed to find out if any action has been taken as expected in this paragraph and, if so, to provide the relevant information including the file noting and copies of correspondence held by any other division in the Ministry. Needless to say, while disclosing that information, the CPIO shall ensure that no information is provided which would be covered under any of the exemption provisions contained in the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Appellant would be free to come back to the CIC if he is not satisfied with the information so provided.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Sh. Sankara Subbu v. Ministry of External Affairs in File No.CIC/SM/A/2013/900157