The Delhi High court recently said that the information relating to money laundering business, hawala money transactions, acts of tax evasion and smuggling activities do not relate to corruption or human rights violations.
Therefore, the Intelligence and Security organisations exempted are not bound to provide the related information under RTI, the High court held on January 25, 2023.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said, "Considering the fact that the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau is clearly exempted under Section 24(1) read with Schedule II of the RTI Act, the direction of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to provide the outcome of the complaint to the RTI Applicant is not sustainable and the same would be contrary to law. Accordingly, the said finding and direction of the CIC are set aside."
The present petition was filed by the Petitioner CPIO, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) challenging the order of CIC of 3 July 2020 directing disclosure of certain information to the RTI Applicant GS Srinivasan.
It was noted by the court that a complaint was filed by GS Srinivasan on 15th May 2017 by which information relating to money laundering business, hawala money transactions, smuggling and tax evasion was sought from the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB).
The said information related to certain individuals who were named in the complaint.
Thereafter, Mr Srinivasan filed his RTI Application on December 21, 2017, seeking information about the status of his complaint and action on the same.
The Petitioner CEIB on January 1, 2018, refused the said information on the ground that the same is exempted under the RTI Act.
Thereafter, the first appeal was filed by Mr Srinivasan. The Appellate Authority, CEIB February 27, 2018 dismissed the appeal and confirmed the order passed by the Petitioner.
Aggrieved by the same, GS Srinivasan filed a second appeal before the CIC. The CIC passed an order on July 3, 2020, and came to the conclusion that the CEIB is exempted under Section 24 of the RTI Act.
However, it directed that The respondent (CEIB) submitted that no specific allegations of human rights violation and corruption could be manifested from the averments of the appellant as far as the content of the RTI application is concerned.
Hence, the RTI Act, 2005 is not applicable to their organisation which has been placed at Serial No. 4 of the 2nd Schedule r/w Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005.
The CIC had observed that the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) has been placed at Serial No. 4 of the 2nd Schedule r/w Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005 and as such, the RTI Act, 2005 is not applicable to his organisation except in the case of corruption and human rights violations and the appellant has also not established any specific instances of corruption and human rights violations in the matter.
Therefore, details of the investigation cannot be provided. However, the respondent should consider providing only the outcome of the complaint to the appellant, within a period of 15 working days from the date of receipt of this order," the CIC had directed.
The Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that since the CEIB is an exempted organisation under Section 24(1) of the RTI Act thus, even the outcome of the complaint of the Respondent Srinivasan could not have been directed to be disclosed by the CIC.
While allowing the petition, the high court noted, " A perusal of the complaint and the RTI Application shows that the same relates to information relating to money laundering business, hawala money transactions, acts of tax evasion and smuggling activities. These do not relate to corruption or human rights violations."
"Thus, the same would not be covered by the exception under the proviso to Section 24(1), " the High court said.
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