ENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION Club Building (Near Post Office) Old JNU Campus, New Delhi - 110067 Tel: +91-11-26161796 Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000293/SG/12346 Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000293/SG Relevant Facts
emerging from the Appeal:
Appellant: : Mr. Krishnanand Tripathi, Sr. Correspondent, Live India, Premnath Motors Complex, 1, Mandir Marg, New Delhi- 110001. Respondent: : Mr. Anil Palta CPIO & HOB of BS&FC Delhi Central Bureau of Investigation 5th Floor, CBI HQ, Lodhi Road, NewDelhi RTI application : 24/09 /2010 (two RTI applications were filed) PIO reply : 18/10/2010 First appeal : 22/10/2010 FAA order : 19/11/2010 Second appeal : 20/12/2010 Information sought: RTI application 1:
I am specifically looking for a copy each of the legal opinions expressed by the agency's director's of prosecution concerning the bank fraud cases filed by the agency against Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal. Information sought: A copy each of the legal opinion (full report) given by the concerned director/s of prosecution (DOP) after the discharge of Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal from the two cases flied against him by the agency in connection with alleged bank fraud.
RTI application 2:
I am specifically looking for information on the two bank fraud cases filed by the agency wherein Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal was made accused by the agency: however, he was later exonerated by the concerned courts.
1. A copy each of the charge sheets wherein Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal was made accused by the agency in connection with the bank fraud case/s.
2. A copy each of the judgments delivered by the concerned court/s that exonerated Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal in both the cases filed by CBI.
3. A copy each of the recommendations made by the agency's then Special Public Prosecutor/s SSPs DIGs and any other RBI official (on deputation with the agency) dealing with either of the cases after Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal was exonerated.
4. A copy of the legal opinion of the then Director/s of Prosecution (DoP) in both the cases after he was exonerated by the concerned courts.
5. A copy the final orders passed/recommendations made by the former and present directors CBI in connection with either of the cases wherein Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal was made accused by the agency.Page 1 of 3
For both RTI applications:
2. With regard to information sought under reference, it is informed that. apart from the two cases which were disposed off, two more cases, which are inter connected with the cases already disposed off, are pending under trial before the same court. Hence, the information cannot be supplied to you and exemption under section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act is claimed.
Grounds for First appeal:
Wrong denial of information.
The undersigned upholds the grounds on which CPIO, BS&FC, CBI, New Delhi denied to provide the information sought by the appellant as it falls u/s 8(1)(h) of RTI Act,2005 because two more cases which are connected with the already disposed of ones are pending trial before the same court.
Grounds for Second appeal:
The case is very old and admittedly there is no investigation underway. It is clear from the response of the CPJO, BS&FC. CBI also, "With regard to information sought under reference, it is informed that, apart from the two cases which were disposed off, two more cases, which are interconnected with the cases already disposed off, are pending under trial before the same court. Hence the information can not be supplied to you and exemption under section 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act is claimed." It reads 'two more cases.., are pending under trial before the same court." It did not say that the investigation is under way. A charge sheet by an investigative agency is a public document and same is true with orders of a court of law. I believe, if CBI wanted to uphold the spirit of the RTI Act and not suppress the information concerning a high profile NRI hotelier, ideally it should have provided me the copies of charge sheets and court orders regarding both the cases without any delay.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present Appellant: Mr. Krishnanand Tripathi, Respondent: Mr. S. V. Raman, Superintendent of Police on behalf of Mr. Anil Palta, CPIO & HOB of BS&FC Delhi;
The PIO has refused to give the information claiming exemptions under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act. A very peculiar claim was made that though the two cases for which information was being sought have been discharged, there are two other fraud cases which are being pursued in which some of the Bank Officers are the same. No evidence has been given as to how giving the information would impede the prosecution of offenders. Section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act exempts disclosure of, "information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders." No claim has been made that any investigation is continuing, and the fact that some bank officers are being prosecuted in two other matters cannot justify refusal to give information in the matters relating to Mr. Sant Singh Chatwal. The Respondent states that some of the documents relied in both the case are the same. The Appellant has not sought documents relating to the case directly. The respondent was asked if documents sought at query-01 and 02 were not public documents. The Respondent agrees that what has been sought in query-01 & 02 are public documents.
Right to Information is a fundamental right of citizens and denial of information has to be based on definite reasons which can be explained.
Justice Ravindra Bhat has held in Bhagatsingh vs. CIC WP (c ) no. 3114/2007- "13. Access to information, under Section 3 of the Act, is the rule and exemptions under Section 8, the exception. Section Page 2 of 3 8 being a restriction on this fundamental right, must therefore is to be strictly construed. It should not be interpreted in manner as to shadow the very right itself. Under Section 8, exemption from releasing information is granted if it would impede the process of investigation or the prosecution of the offenders. It is apparent that the mere existence of an investigation process cannot be a ground for refusal of the information; the authority withholding information must show satisfactory reasons as to why the release of such information would hamper the investigation process. Such reasons should be germane, and the opinion of the process being hampered should be reasonable and based on some material. Sans this consideration, Section 8(1)(h) and other such provisions would become the haven for dodging demands for information.
14. A rights based enactment is akin to a welfare measure, like the Act, should receive a liberal interpretation. The contextual background and history of the Act is such that the exemptions, outlined in Section 8, relieving the authorities from the obligation to provide information, constitute restrictions on the exercise of the rights provided by it. Therefore, such exemption provisions have to be construed in their terms; there is some authority supporting this view ( See Nathi Devi v. Radha Devi Gupta 2005 (2) SCC 201; B. R. Kapoor v. State of Tamil Nadu 2001 (7) SCC 231 and V. Tulasamma v. Sesha Reddy 1977 (3) SCC 99). Adopting a different approach would result in narrowing the rights and approving a judicially mandated class of restriction on the rights under the Act, which is unwarranted."
Frivolously refusing information by claiming one of the 10 exemptions in Section 8(1) without giving explanation is an unwarranted denial of citizens' fundamental right. No proper explanation has been given for denying the information.
The Appeal is allowed.
The PIO is directed to provide the complete information to the Appellant before 30 May 2011.
The issue before the Commission is of denying the information by the PIO without any justification in the law.
From the facts before the Commission it appears that the PIO is guilty of not furnishing information. It appears that the PIO's actions attract the penal provisions of Section 20 (1). A showcause notice is being issued to him, and he is directed give his reasons to the Commission to show cause why penalty should not be levied on him.
The PIO Mr. Anil Palta will present himself before the Commission at the above address on 09 June 2011 at 4.00pm alongwith his written submissions showing cause why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under Section 20 (1). He will also submit proof of having given the information to the appellant.
If there are other persons responsible for the delay in providing the information to the Appellant the PIO is directed to inform such persons of the show cause hearing and direct them to appear before the Commission with him.
This decision is announced in open chamber.
Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.
Any information in compliance with this Order will be provided free of cost as per Section 7(6) of RTI Act.
Shailesh Gandhi Information Commissioner 11 May 2011 (In any correspondence on this decision, mention the complete decision number.) (SG) Page 3 of 3