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Delhi HC asks IFS officer to respond to CBI’s plea challenging order to give info under RTI Act

The single judge, in the January 30 order, held that the CBI was not completely exempt from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which permits it to provide information pertaining to corruption and human rights violation.
Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 12:30 IST
Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 12:30 IST

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer's response on a plea by the CBI challenging an order asking the probe agency to provide certain information about alleged corruption in AIIMS trauma centre.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora issued notice to Sanjeev Chaturvedi, a former chief vigilance officer (CVO) of AIIMS, Delhi, asking him to file a counter affidavit in response to the CBI’s appeal within four weeks.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on July 29.

The division bench was hearing the CBI’s appeal challenging a single judge’s January 30 order refusing to interfere with the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) November 2019 decision directing the probe agency to provide certain information to Chaturvedi.

Chaturvedi had sought information about alleged corruption in purchase of disinfectant and fogging solution for the medical store of Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre, AIIMS.

He was the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS at the relevant time when he had sent a report regarding alleged corruption in the purchases being made for the trauma centre.

Chaturvedi had also sought a certified copy of the file noting or documents or correspondences related to the investigation done by the CBI in the matter.

According to the officer, since the CBI took no action on the information provided by him, he approached the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the probe agency.

After the CBI declined to furnish the information, he approached the CIC which ordered the central agency to provide him the details. The CBI then approached the high court challenging the CIC’s 2019 order.

The single judge, in the January 30 order, held that the CBI was not completely exempt from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which permits it to provide information pertaining to corruption and human rights violation.

Perusing Section 24 (Act not to apply to certain organisations) of the RTI Act, the high court had said it showed that even though the name of the organisation (CBI) found mention in the Second Schedule to the law, it did not mean that the entire Act is not applicable to such organisations.

It had said there was nothing on record to demonstrate that investigation regarding malpractices in purchase of disinfectants and fogging solution in JPNA Trauma Centre, AIIMS here will expose the officers and other persons involved in the probe that can endanger their life or would jeopardise any other serious investigation.

On Wednesday, the counsel for the CBI argued that the single judge’s verdict be set aside on the ground that Section 24 of the RTI law acts as a complete bar and the agency was exempt from the provisions of the Act as its investigation “remains a secret and any disclosure” would defeat the very purpose of its inclusion in the RTI Act.

The federal probe agency said intelligence played a very vital role in investigation of offences of corruption, and many important and sensitive cases were registered on the basis of intelligence inputs. Therefore, it cannot disclose the details of the investigation to Chaturvedi, the CBI said.

“The single judge, while passing the impugned judgment, failed to consider that in the course of investigation carried out by CBI, communications are made to a public officer in confidence and disclosure of the same would be prejudicial to the public interest… 'Public interest demands that the proceedings of enquiry/ investigation should not be made available under the RTI Act, as it might endanger the safety of informants and might also deter the informants from giving information to the investigating agency,” the appeal said.

It added furnishing such information would defeat the very purpose of enquiry into a crime, in particular, a crime relating to corruption, as it would lead to exposing the information collected by the CBI with great effort using their men and resources, giving a chance to alleged culprits to tamper with evidence and destroy the money trail apart from paving the way for influencing the witnesses.

The single judge had, however, held that in appropriate cases, it is always open for the CBI to establish that the information sought about a particular investigation is sensitive in nature, and on considering the nature of sensitivity involved and keeping in mind the object of Section 24 of the RTI Act, it is always open for the CPIO to refuse grant of such information.

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Published 15 May 2024, 12:30 IST

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