ED remains in denial mode over blackmoney issue

A full-bench of the transparency panel had directed the Directorate, an organisation exempted under the RTI Act, to provide information on the issue as it relates to corruption.

The Second schedule of section 24 of the RTI Act exempts several organisations like intelligence agencies, paramilitary forces among others from disclosing information. However, the exemption does not cover information which may be related to human rights violations and corruption.

The ED in reply to V R Chandran had cited the exemption clause to withhold information on black money stashed in Swiss Banks but the argument was rejected by the Commission. In its order the full bench has said, "Enforcement Directorate had strenuously argued before us that they stand exempted from disclosure obligation under RTI Act by virtue of their inclusion in the Second Schedule, under Section 24 of the RTI Act."

"We would like to dwell upon this aspect of argument in the context of a proviso built into the Section 24 itself that these exemptions are subject to their not being matters of 'human rights violations' or 'allegations of corruption'.

"In our view, all matters now investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in the matter of stashing away of Indian money in foreign banks, come within the definition of allegations of corruption in Section 24". But despite such clear orders, when similar queries were sent by activist S C Agrawal, who had attached the order with the plea, the Directorate refused the information citing its exemption from disclosures under the RTI Act.

"Attention of the applicant is invited to section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005 inter-alia to the effect that - '(i) Nothing contained this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule...' Directorate of Enforcement is one such organisation," it said. Agrawal has filed a complaint with the CIC saying that CPIO has "defied" the orders of the Commission by not providing the information which was allowed to be disclosed by the transparency watchdog.

"Even if any stay-order from some competent Court might have been obtained on the said CIC-verdict, CPIO must have mentioned about it in its reply. Such evasive reply from CPIO unnecessarily increases work-load on Central Information Commission when CPIOs do not respond to RTI queries despite even full-bench verdicts by the Central Information Commission," the complaint said.

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