The Centre may have to explain why it exempted an investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is expected to take up the issue with the government on granting exemption to the CBI after the civil society members termed the decision illegal.
NAC member Aruna Roy is expected to raise the issue at the next council meeting. The NAC had earlier prevented the Centre from notifying amendments to the RTI rules, which could have imposed fresh restrictions in exercising their right to seek information from the government.
Roy termed the decision to exempt the CBI as a violation of the RTI law and said it would open Pandora’s box for similar exemptions by state agencies. This will further hamper transparency in anti-corruption probes of the government.
Justifying the move, minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanaswamy said: “The CBI is investigating various matters, which involve national security... Based on the opinion given to us by the attorney general, we have done it (exempted the CBI).”
The CBI has been quick to act on the Cabinet decision while rejecting the RTI application of Subhash Chandra Aggarwal. “The government of India...has placed the CBI at serial Number 23 of the second schedule of the RTI Act, this Act is not applicable to the CBI,” CBI joint-director Prabodh Kumar said in reply to his RTI plea.
Agrawal had filed four RTI applications, three months before the CBI got exemption, seeking details of corruption cases accusing officials and ministers of amassing disproportionate assets. The questions pertained to recoveries done by the CBI from the accused and fine slapped on corrupt officials.