The CBI should be taken out of the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI) to block information requests that could put lives of investigators at risk, solicitor general, Gopal Subramanium has advised the government.
Subramanium has recommended that the CBI be exempted in light of the "complex and dangerous situations in which the Central Bureau of Investigation has to work".
"Its officers need to be protected from dangers which might arise out of putting sensitive details in public domain," Subramanium has stated in his detailed legal opinion accessed by HT. "In my view section 24 of the RTI Act, which provides exemption to organisations on security concerns, must apply to the CBI and it should be added to the second schedule."
Placing the CBI in the second schedule of the RTI Act — alongside 22 other intelligence and security organisations —gives them a blanket exemption from the RTI Act except for requests relating to human rights violations and corruption.
The government, however, is yet to take a final call on Subramanium’s recommendation and is conscious that accepting the CBI's plea would open the floodgates for similar exemptions by state police investigators.
Subramanium's opinion followed a reference from the department of personnel and training (DoPT) to the law ministry last month.
The development follows desperate appeals by the investigating agency, arguing that they faced a deluge of info requests applications seeking file notings containing sensitive exchanges between officials related to cases in which chargesheets have been filed in courts and also those which have been closed.
Last month the CBI had to allow an RTI applicant to access file notings on why it had not filed a review petition against the Supreme Court judgment in the 1996 Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case. The SC had commuted the death sentence of her killer Santosh Singh into life imprisonment.
The solicitor general, in his opinion, has mentioned that in cases where the conflict was between the rule of law and the right to expression, the former must get precedence.
This is for the second time that the CBI has attempted to wriggle out of the RTI Act, its earlier attempt in 2008 failed when the secretaries panel had rejected its request. The probe agency had sought exemption under section 8 of the RTI Act, which lays down 12 grounds for denial of information, including safety and sovereignty of the country.