THE LAWFILE

Centre Justifies Keeping CBI, NIA Etc Out Of RTI Act Ambit

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Terming the right to information as “not an absolute one”, the Centre defended in the Delhi High Court its decision to keep key probe and intelligence agencies like CBI, NIA and NATGRID out of the transparency law ambit, asserting that it was “in larger public interest and in the interest of national security.”

In a 16-page affidavit submitted to the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the Ministry of Personnel justified its decision to keep various investigating and intelligence agencies out of the Right to Information Act purview, citing the need to strike a balance between “transparency and the security and well-being of the nation.”

“It is in the larger public interest and in the interest of the national security that CBI, NIA and NATGRID have been included in the second schedule to the act,” the Centre said in its affidavit submitted to the court in reply to the court notice over a public interest plea, challenging the exclusion of CBI etc from the RTI Act ambit.

“The right to information is not an absolute right.

There is a need to ensure the security of the nation, which should not be jeopardised due to disclosure of information under the transparency law,” said the Centre.

“It may be stated that the RTI Act requires a balance to be maintained between transparency and security and well- being of the nation. The three organisations have been included in the second schedule to the Act for maintaining such a balance,” it added.

The affidavit by the Ministry of Personnel said the government decided to keep CBI out of the transparency law ambit on a agency’s representation which was throughly examined by a committee of secretaries.

“This has been primarily done to ensure that the interests of the security of the state are not overlooked while protecting the rights of the citizens to seek information,” the affidavit said and sought the PIL to be dismissed with cost.

While refuting allegations that exemption had been granted to hide information and make CBI etc opaque organisations, the ministry said these organisations were not excluded from the RTI Act ambit to protect any guilty employee, officer, minister and other authorities.

CBI, meanwhile, in a separate affidavit to the court, pleaded disclosure of information had been hindering its functioning.

Citing a list of sensitive cases, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Navy War Room leak case, IC 814 hijacking and Bombay blast, CBI said it has been handling several “sensitive cases pertaining to the national security and the disclosure of information about them would jeopardise the functioning of the agency.”

The Centre and CBI had filed their replies in response to the court notice to them on two separate PILs, filed last month by lawyers Sitab Ali Chaudhary and Ajay Aggarwal against the June 9 decision of the union cabinet exempting CBI, NIA and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) from the purview of the RTI Act.

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