Storm brews over keeping CBI out of RTI purview

Storm brews over keeping CBI out of RTI purview

Centre justifies move, activists to petition Sonia Gandhi

Key activists including Aruna Roy are set to take up the issue with National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday. Minister for Personnel Affairs in Prime Minister’s Office, V Narayanswamy on Tuesday cited security reasons for keeping CBI outside the RTI saying the investigating agency was not only an anti-corruption body but was also involved with security issues.

Strongly rejecting the government’s argument, Roy who is a member of the NAC, said the Centre had gone back on its promise of  keeping CBI under RTI which would allow the public access to information on the cases investigated by the agency.

“I will take up the issue with the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi Wednesday at the National Advisory Council meeting. I hope better sense will prevail”, Roy said and described the measure as “outrageous”. She said a major civil agitation would hit the road and the court would be petitioned against the move.

Roy, a major force behind the formulation of the RTI, said on the one hand the government was having a truck with the Lokpal which is seeking “accountability” and  on the other was not for making the investigating agency “accountable to public.”

The NAC member said it was earlier agreed that any change in RTI would be brought under a public domain and discussed. Wajahat Habibullah, former chairman of the Central Information Commission has termed the decision as “not wise” and written to the prime minister on the issue.

The response he received from the prime minister is being termed as “unsatisfactory”, sources said. Given the current public mood, the move would be “counter-productive”, Habibullah said.

He said CBI was the biggest anti-corruption agency in the country and sought to bring transparency in public life. Its exclusion would go against its basic aim of battling corruption, Habibullah said.

Habibullah, now the chairperson of National Commission for Minorities, said the CBI does not collect intelligence or perform security-related duties and does not fit the criteria laid down for organisations, listed under the second schedule of Section 24 of the RTI Act, which are exempted from disclosing information.

He said it should be debated at what stage of investigation the CBI could disclose or not disclose information about a particular case. The CBI is investigating major corruption cases including the 2G scam, CWG corruption and Adarsh Housing Society irregularity with alleged involvement of key politicians. It is also investigating cases of disproportionate assets against UP Chief Minister Mayawati and former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Dismissing the government’s contention of seeing CBI as a security agency Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the Joint Drafting Committee on Lokpal, said the CBI is not an intelligence agency like IB or RAW but a police force. The Ramon Magsaysay award winner said, “The CBI is not mandated by law to undertake any intelligence gathering or security-related duties.”

Around 14 organisations including the Intelligence Bureau, National intelligence grid, National Investigation Agency and RAW are excluded from the RTI Act.

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