Prashant Pandey

Information Commission allows him to see probe records

  • Case closure challenged by scientist
  • Information available also with three other bodies

    NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed a senior ICAR scientist to inspect investigation files and records on a multicrore, computer purchase scam in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which came to light in the mid-1990s. The case was closed in February 2004 for lack of evidence.

    The Central Bureau of Investigation, in a first information report registered in 2000, alleged that certain officials of the ICAR and a private computer company had entered into a criminal conspiracy, causing a loss of over Rs. 12 crore to the exchequer. However, in 2003 it filed a closure appeal, which a special CBI court accepted.

    This September, Sadachari Singh Tomar, principal scientist with the ICAR, who is also the appellant before the CIC, filed a criminal review petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the closure of the case.

    Notices sent

    The court sent notices to officials and the petition is likely to come up for hearing next March.

    Earlier this year, Mr. Tomar filed an application, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, with the CBI seeking information on the investigation into the scam, particularly on the basis of his inputs. Not satisfied with the CBI information, he approached the CIC.

    Hearing Mr. Tomar's appeal last week, the CIC said the information provided by the CBI's central public information officers (CPIOs) was not very clear, nor was his request specific. It, therefore, advised him to seek an inspection of files and records so as to identify the information he required.

    The CPIOs have been directed to allow the inspection, after due application of Section 10 (1) of the RTI Act (disclosing parts of information otherwise exempt from disclosure). The CIC has given the CBI two weeks to implement the order.

    In a related appeal, Mr. Tomar also sought access to the complete reports and documents of inquiry panels such as the Pawan Raina Committee, set up by the Agriculture Ministry to look into the scam.

    The CIC, disposing of the appeal on November 23, said the information sought lay with at least four bodies the CBI, the ICAR, the Ministry and the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) within the Ministry.

    It directed the DAC appellate authority, an officer of the level of Joint Secretary, to ascertain which piece of information was available with which body and whether it could be released under the RTI Act.

    Subsequently, the appellant would file requests with the CPIOs of the four bodies seeking specific information.

    The CIC has given the appellate authority six weeks to implement the direction.