Are the government agencies above law while citizens are expected it?
This is precisely what the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation, while imposing a penalty of Rs 7,000 on a senior CBI official for not providing the information sought under the Right To Information Act.
An RTI applicant had sought information on CBI closing the case of alleged bank fraud against NRI millionaire Sant Singh Chatwal but the agency refused to provide information saying the information was vital for other pending cases against Chatwal.
The CIC had earlier directed the agency to provide information but the CBI decided to file a petition in Delhi high court seeking a stay against the commission’s order.
Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said a decision to file a petition was not a valid reason under the RTI Act to deny information and drew an analogy between CBI’s consistent refusal and not allowing protest at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila grounds where prohibitory orders were invoked.
"Given that the CBI is the premier investigation and law enforcement agency of the country, it is certainly expected of its officers to behave responsibly and abide by the mandate laid down by the Supreme Court. This may be contrasted to a situation when an order is promulgated under section 144 of the IPC prohibiting citizens from demonstrating at Jantar Mantar or Ramlila grounds. In such a situation the citizens are expected to abide by this and bear the consequences, if they fail to do so," Gandhi said in his order.
This is third CIC order against the CBI since the Central government has exempted the agency from the RTI Act invoking protest from activists. The CIC has already made it clear that the agency will have to provide information on RTI applications filed prior to the government’s notification exempting the agency. CBI is reluctant.
CBI sources said the agency will be moving High Court against the CIC orders.