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Kerala HC: CBI Has no Responsibility to Disclose Information Under RTI Act, Exempted u/s 24

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CBI Central Bureau of Investigation Law insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 08 November 2022 at 19:16 IST

According to a recent ruling by the Kerala High Court, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is not required to provide any information requested under the RTI Act. This is because the CBI is exempt from the Act under Section 24 of the RTI Act as it is mentioned in the second schedule.

According to Section 24 of the RTI Act, the intelligence and security organisations listed in the Second Schedule that were established by the Central Government and any information provided to that Government are exempt from the Act’s provisions.

The divisional bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that as per a notification issued by the Government in 2011, CBI, NIA and National Intelligence Grid are included in the Second Schedule to RTI Act, and therefore, CBI is not liable to furnish any information.

“Therefore, it can be seen that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the said organization is not liable to furnish any information.”

Background

Writ petition was filed against the dismissal of an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and confirmation of the same by the appellate authorities.

The appellant’s retirement benefits were withdrawn due to case against him, filed by the Deputy Director, CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureau (3rd respondent), alleging that while clearing certain sundry goods baggage of NRI Labourers, a proper assessment was not done by him for monetary benefits, while he was working in the unaccompanied baggage section, air cargo, Trivandrum.

The appellant claimed that officers had manipulated the statements of three passengers under Section 161 CrPC. He further claims that he requested that they provide him with a copy of the enquiry report as it can prove his innocence, which was not provided to him. Hence, he filed an application under the RTI Act, 2005, for securing a copy of the report. The application as well as an appeal filed before the concerned appellate authorities were rejected, same was then challenged before the Single Bench.

A single bench, after considering various contentions raised by the parties, rejected the petition. Aggrieved by the order, the present appeal was preferred.

Contentions

The Counsel appearing for the Appellant, Advocate M.A. Baby, submitted that the primary authority did not provide a justification for rejecting the application. It was further argued that the orders issued by the authorities under the RTI Act are unlawful under the law because both the first and second appellate authorities refused the information without providing any justification at all.

Whereas, the counsel representing the respondent, Deputy Solicitor General Advocate S. Manu, contended that the information requested by the appellant comes under the exempted categories provided under Section 8 of the Act, 2005, and the respondents has under this provision privileged to withhold information by virtue of the protection granted under Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005.

DSG also pointed out that even though a contention is advanced by the appellant that The appellant is not permitted to request any such relief relying on a third party document because the enquiry report is necessary in order to seek discharge at the initial stage of the proceedings before the CBI Court.

Reasoning of Division Bench

Court ruled that the notification issued by the Government in 2011 clarify that the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid are included in the II Schedule in pursuant of the powers conferred by Section 24(2) of the RTI Act. Hence, the organization once become part of the Second Schedule is not and therefore it is clear that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005, the said organization is not obligated for providing any information.

“…notification issued by the Government dated 09.06.2011 makes it clear that in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-Section 2 of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the National Intelligence Grid are included in the second schedule to the Act, 2005.”

“Therefore, it can be seen that once CBI is included in the second schedule in contemplation of Section 24 of the Act, 2005, the said organization is not liable to furnish any information.”

The Court also emphasised that Section 8(i)(b) of the RTI Act exempts from disclosure any information that would interfere with the process of investigating, apprehending, or prosecuting offenders, and Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, 2005 states that there is no obligation to provide information relating to personal information whose disclosure has no correlation to any public activity or interest or that would result in an unnecessary invasion of the privacy of a person.

The Court further stated that the authorities are justified in rejecting the information because the information requested by the appellant is third-party information solely for his purpose, which is not permissible under the RTI Act.

On the basis of above reasoning, the Court dismissed the Appeal.

Case Title: S. Rajeev Kumar v. The Director, Central Bureau of Investigation