India’s top security and intelligence agencies consistently refuse to give out any information about the Right to Information requests they receive, and those that do, reject the bulk of queries they receive, new data shows.
Twenty-five of India’s top security agencies are exempt from most of the requirements of the RTI Act, but are required to provide access to information if it relates to allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
They also need to appoint public information officers and submit reports to the Central Information Commission about the number of RTI applications received, amount of fees collected and details of cases where access to information was rejected.
The Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative analysed annual CIC reports from 2005 to 2014 and found that 11 of these security agencies, including the National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, the Special Protection Group and the Enforcement Directorate, have never reported any RTI information to the CIC. The Central Bureau of Investigation stopped reporting data after it was included in the list of largely exempt organisations in 2012.
Rejection rate high
Even among the agencies which do submit data to the CIC, the rate of rejection is very high, the data shows.
The Intelligence Bureau’s rejection rate between 2008 and 2014 averaged 98 per cent, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence rejected all RTI requests it received, and the Narcotics Control Bureau rejected 87 per cent of all requests.
The Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force did relatively better — the BSF rejected just over half of all queries it received and the CRPF rejecting just over a third.
“Most of the intelligence agencies are not established by any law made by Parliament. Many of them do not even have their budget and expenditure figures mentioned in the documents submitted to Parliament for approval every year. There is simply no Parliamentary oversight on their functioning,” Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator, CHRI’s Access to Information programme, said.
“Disclosing RTI statistics does not in any manner jeopardise national security — external or internal,” Mr. Nayak said.