SC stays Delhi HC order to disclose Volcker report before CIC

A division bench comprising Justices B N Agarwal and G S Singhvi of the Supreme Court last week issued notices to Arun Kumar Agarwal, the petitioner before the CIC, and allowed the interim stay order on a Delhi High Court order directing ED to provide the file of Special Envoy to UN Virendra Dayal in the oil-for-food scam for inspection.

The Delhi High Court had upheld the Central Information Commissions' directive to ED seeking inspection of Dayal's report in the scam that saw the ouster of former External Affairs minister Natwar Singh for his alleged involvement.

"...Directorate of Enforcement will produce their original records in terms of directions issued by CIC on the next date of hearing," Justice Sanjiv Khanna of the Delhi High Court had said in his order adding that the CIC had merely asked for inspection of records to satisfy itself on the pleas raised which are to be adjudicated.

The CIC, while hearing the petition of RTI applicant, Agrawal, had directed the ED to produce the report of Dayal, who was appointed by the government as special envoy to coordinate with UN officials on the Volcker Committee report, before deciding on its exemption from disclosure.

The Paul Volcker Committee was set up by the United Nations in Apirl 2004 to probe corruption and fraud in its Oil for Food Programme in Iraq.

The Enforcement Directorate, which is an exempted organisation under the RTI Act, had challenged the decision in the High Court pleading that CIC had expanded the scope of the appeal pending before it.

It said the Commission cannot call for records pertaining to ongoing investigations, in the light of its limited powers.

However, the High Court said, "CIC has jurisdiction to decide whether proviso to Section 24 (1) of the Act is applicable and whether conditions mentioned in section 8(1) of the Act are satisfied. To satisfy and have a just and fair decision, CIC can direct production of records and examine them."

Agrawal had sought the entire file containing note sheets relating to report of Dayal. But Ministry of Law and Justice, Prime Minister's Office and the Revenue department under Finance Ministry have expressed ignorance about it.

Revenue department had informed the CIC that the report might be with the Enforcement Directorate.

The Directorate said it was exempted from making any disclosure under RTI Act and hence the report could not be given to the RTI applicant.

Since Agrawal had made allegations of corruption in the multi-million dollar deal in which names of former external affairs minister Natwar Singh, his son Jagat Singh, several political parties and corporate groups cropped up, the CIC directed the ED to produce the document for its perusal so that exemption clause can be decided upon.

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