Free Press Journal

Political convenience shouldn’t guide exemptions from RTI


New Delhi: Attacking the inclusion of organisations like CBI in the list of entities exempted from the RTI Act, a two-member committee constituted by the CIC has said that such decisions to shield organisations from the transparency law should not be the result of “political convenience or other extraneous factors”.

CBI was not in the first list of exempted organisations as it was included only after RTI queries on Bofors, CWG scam, 2G scam started reaching it. The agency was probing major corruption cases during UPA tenure when it approached the government seeking exemption from the RTI Act.

The inclusion of CBI in the list of exempted organisations is the most debated as it primarily deals with corruption cases which are not covered in the protection given to organisations under Section 24 of the RTI Act.

The Act says nothing contained in the RTI Act will apply on the organisation which are listed in the second schedule of the Section 24, provided that the information (any material in any form) held by or under the control of the public authorites related to allegations of corruption and human rights violation shall not be covered under the exemption.

According to most RTI experts, this clause does not give any protection to an organisation like CBI which is basically a police organisation probing corruption cases.

Moreover, Section 8 gives enough protection in case the information could adversly affect investigation and prosecution work and hamper other sensitive information. The committee of former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari and former Information Commissioner M M Ansari in its report on “Transparency Audit: Towards an open and accountable Government”, said there have been certain controversial entries in Section 24 of the RTI Act, which allows listed entities to “escape the reach of the Act”.

The report said such entries are potentially antithetical to transparency, specially when these do not merit inclusion within this section. The committee said it is necessary that a system is put in place to examine the claims of the government entities to qualify for entry into section 24.

“All such decisions should be made by an autonomous/independent body and not be decided based on political convenience or other extraneous factors,” it said.