Important CIC Decisions regarding Exemptions from Disclosure of Information under RTI Act, 2005

Discussion in 'Right to Information Act 2005' started by pansel, Apr 6, 2016.

  1. pansel

    pansel Member

    (25) No Imagined Exemptions other than grounds available in Section 8 of RTI Act. Mangla Ram Jat vs. PIO, Banaras Hindu University, Decision No. CIC / OK / A 2008 / 00860 / SG / 0809, dated 31.12.2008. In this case Commission explained its role, ambit and scope of exemptions and the context of Right to Information. The Commission is conscious of the fact that it has been established under the Act and being an adjudicating body under the Act, it cannot take upon itself the role of the legislature and import new exemptions hitherto not provided. The Commission cannot of its own impose exemptions and substitute their own views for those of Parliament. The Act leaves no such liberty with the adjudicating authorities to read law beyond what it is stated explicitly. There is absolutely no ambiguity in the Act and tinkering with it in the name of larger public interest is beyond the scope of the adjudicating authorities. Creating new exemptions by the adjudicating authorities will go against the spirit of the Act. Under this Act, providing information is the rule and denial an exception. Any attempt to constrict or deny information to the Sovereign Citizen of India without the explicit sanction of the law will be going against rule of law. DECISION: Right to Information as part of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression is well established in our constitutional jurisprudence. Any restriction on the Fundamental Rights of the Citizens in a democratic polity is always looked upon with suspicion and is invariably preceded by a great deal of thought and reasoning. Even the Parliament, while constricting any fundamental rights of the citizens, is very wary. Therefore, the Commission is of the view that the Commission, an adjudicating body which is a creation of the Act, has no authority to import new exemptions and in the process curtail the Fundamental Right of Information of citizens.

    (26) It would be in inappropriate and even injurious, to on-going investigations if informers are allowed to intrude into the investigative progress under RTI Act. In the case of Sh. S.K. Agarwalla Vs. Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (F. No. CIC/AT/A/2007/01455 dated 25.04.2008), appellant (informer) asked for information relating to the progress of the case under investigations which was denied by the CPIO and the FAA. The appellant filed appeal before Information Commission against the decision of CPIO and FAA. DECISION: CIC felt that although speedy investigations in matters of revenue-evasion is salutary goal, it would be inappropriate and even injurious, to on-going investigations if informers are allowed to intrude into the investigative progress all in the name of enforcing a Right to Information. Intrusive supervision of investigation work of public authorities especially by interested parties has the effect of impeding that process, in the sense it exposes the officers to external pressures and constricts the freedom with which such investigations are to be conducted. Commission also felt that there is no reason why officers of public authorities should space their investigations to benefit informants. Intrusive interference in investigation work is not conductive to such investigations and, in that sense, impedes it. (27) Copy of SP, CBI's report (Sections 8(1)(g), 8(1)(j), 8(1)(h) and 10 (1) of the RTI Act)
    In the case of D.P. Maheshwari vs. CBI (Appeal No. CIC / WB / A /2008 /0269 and 270, dated 25.8.2009), the appellant sought the copy of the SP, CBI's report. In response to the application, SP, CBI responded that SP's report is an confidential document and hence exempted under 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act. The first appellate authority rejected the appeal on the ground that the matter is pending trial and supply of SP's report at this stage would impede the prosecution of offenders. First appellate authority also mentioned that the document is confidential held under fiduciary relationship and its contents shall not be accessed by any one not authorized to access them. CBI also took the plea that the SP's report being sought is connected to the high profile scam in the State of Bihar amounting to Rs.200 crores. Disclosing the enquiry report itself will expose the pros and cons of the case and will give undue advantage to those who intend to exploit. Moreover the appellant is not an accused in the case. Disclosure of the information sought will accordingly be not in the public interest. The appellant however mentioned that the investigation report has discussed his role in the scam and he was exonerated of the charges thereafter. He requires to know about his exoneration in the enquiry report so as to obviate further harassment and enquiry in the matter. CBI argued that the investigation report have details of personal information of many persons and its disclosure would amount to invasion of privacy and thus qualify for exemption under Section 8(1)(j). DECISION: The plea of exemption under Section 8(1)(j) cannot be applied as the appellant is asking for information about his own case. Even if the report contains personal information about others, the principle of severability under Section10 (1) can be applied. The Commission agreed that disclosure of complete report may impede the process of investigation and amount to invasion of privacy of the persons mentioned in the report. As such Section 8(1)(g) is applicable. However, since the appellant is not the accused the information regarding him can not be held to be such as to impede the process of investigation or prosecution. Accordingly part of information exonerating the appellate may be provided as per Sub Section 1 of Section 10 of the RTI Act

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