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New Delhi, Jul 1, DHNS

In a decision that may embarrass an embattled UPA government, the Central Information Commission on Friday held that the Centre’s action in placing the CBI on the list of organisations exempted to provide information under the RTI Act was against the spirit of the Constitution.

The CIC order comes within weeks of the Union Government’s controversial notification issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on June 9 which put the CBI in the second schedule of the Right to Information Act 2005. This enabled the CBI exemption available to “security and intelligence” organisations like IB and RAW from the scope of the transparency law.

The June order of the government was criticised by various quarters as CBI is already investigating cases relating to Common Wealth Games 2010 and 2G spectrum scam. “This commission rules that the said notification of 9/6/2011 is not in consonance with the letter or spirit of section 24 of the RTI Act, since it constricts the citizen’s fundamental right in a manner not sanctioned by the law,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

The Commission quashed the notification by allowing a complaint filed by Justice (Retired) R N Mishra seeking copy of the FIR and other details relating to Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam case which had put several members of judiciary including the higher judiciary under the scanner for allegedly swindling employees’ money for personal gains. After going through the functioning and mandate of the CBI, the apex panel under the transparency law ruled that CBI is not an “intelligence or security organisation”.

“Since no reasons have been advanced, citizens are likely to deduce that the purpose of including CBI in the second schedule was to curb transparency and accountability from the investigations of several corruption cases against high-ranking government officers,” Gandhi said, noting that the CBI was a multi-disciplinary investigating agency. Rejecting the CBI plea, the commission directed the probe agency to provide the details sought by Mishra by July 25.

Also the notification issued by DoPT on June 9 would be construed as prospective in nature only without there being any “express stipulation” in it.

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