CBI and NIA excluded from Act purview

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday adjourned to September 27 the hearing on a writ petition challenging the Union government's order exempting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The petition, filed by D.B. Binu, secretary, Human Rights Defence Forum, has said the government has been given exemption by including them in the second schedule to the Act, without citing any reasons for doing so.

The petition has alleged that the action violates the rights of the citizen, amounting to a denial of access to the administrative and executive functions of these agencies. Various instances of political interference in the functioning of the agencies have come to light only because of alert citizens.

The petition has said a scrutiny of various provisions, particularly sections 8(1) and 24 of the RTI Act, reveals that organisations established for criminal investigation and prosecution cannot claim any immunity from disclosing information at their disposal.Under Section 8(1)(h), information which when disclosed does not impede the progress of investigation or prosecution must be made available in the public domain. Even information exempted from disclosure can be divulged if public interest in revealing it outweighs the harm being done to the protected interest.

In its counter-affidavit, the Centre has defended the exemption saying that disclosure of sensitive information available with the two agencies will impede investigation and prosecution of crimes and affect national security. The Centre said most of their functions are under the scrutiny of the judiciary.