Indian CIC Orders Agency to Disclose Corruption Files

6 November 2012

India’s chief information commissioner, Satyendra Mishra, has ruled that even an agency exempt from the right to information law may not withhold information related to corruption by public officials or human rights violations.

In his Nov. 2 order, Mishra mandated the Central Bureau of Information to provide requested information, subject to RTI Act exemptions, according to media reports.

The act exempts 25 intelligence and security organizations from the law, but it also states in Section 24 that public authorities must disclose information related to corruption and human rights violations.

The petitioner, C.J. Karira, had his RTI application returned by the CBI, which claimed it was  exempt and obliged only to disclose information related to corruption by its own employees.

The CIC decision states: “The wording of Section 24 is clear. It casts an obligation on the CPIO [Central Public Information Officer] of the exempted organisation to entertain all requests for information pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violations. It doesn’t make any distinction between the exempted organisations on the basis of the functions they perform nor between allegations of corruption on the basis of whether it is made against the employees of the exempt organisation or against others.”

The order also says, “It is true that the CBI primarily investigates cases of corruption by public servants of the Central Government and therefore most of the information it holds would have a nexus with allegations of corruption. It is also true that the proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act would make it necessary for the CPIO to entertain all such RTI applications, rendering the exclusion of the organisation from the operation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act almost pointless. This cannot be helped as the law is quite clear.”

Mishra Urges Proactive Disclosure

Separately, Mishra Nov. 3 gave a speech in which he said public authorities are not supplying enough information without being asked for it.

Section four of the RTI Act mandates proactive disclosures and organization of records, but  Mishra said the statutory provisions are not complied even seven years after passage of the law. He spoke at 11th All India Lokayukta Conference.

Mishra said “well kept records and indexing” would further help in disseminating information and curbing corruption at all levels.

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