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Govt keeps Natgrid, NIA out of RTI ambit

Discussion in 'National Politics' started by Hembo, Jun 21, 2011.

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  1. Hembo

    Hembo OLD MOD STAR MEMBER

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    Govt keeps Natgrid, NIA out of RTI ambit
    Aman Sharma | New Delhi, June 21, 2011 | Updated 10:11 IST

    Here's another blow to transparency in the government. After exempting the CBI, the government has now pushed the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) out of the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

    Putting Natgrid in the list of organisations exempted from making disclosures under the RTI Act will certainly fuel concerns as a citizen would not be able to seek details on whether any of his databases have been accessed by the investigating agencies through Natgrid.

    With the inclusion of Natgrid, NIA and CBI in the second schedule to the RTI Act - a decision which was made official through a gazette notification on June 9 - there are now 25 'intelligence and security' organisations which are exempted from providing any information under the RTI Act, except information pertaining to allegations on any corruption and human right violations.

    To start off in 2005, the second schedule had 18 organisations on its list, which grew to 22 in 2008 and to 25 presently.

    Most of the 11 agencies which can access the Natgrid for getting database information on a citizen are also already exempted from the RTI Act.

    A government source said Natgrid needed to be kept out of the RTI purview because most of the 11 agencies authorised to access databases through the Natgrid are already exempted from RTI. "So anyway if a citizen wants to know if the Intelligence Bureau (IB) asked for any information on his bank account database through the Natgrid, the information cannot be disclosed as IB is an exempt organisation. Natgrid is not an organisation but only a forwarding tool and like an extended server of these 11 agencies," the source said.

    Supreme Court lawyer and cyber law expert, Pawan Duggal, however, said the decision to exempt Natgrid from the RTI Act only strengthened the 'Big Brother' concept. "Its a huge setback to transparency. It's like a blackout. We agree that national sovereignty is paramount but that is not tantamount to removing all levels of transparency," he said.
     
  2. Hembo

    Hembo OLD MOD STAR MEMBER

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    Government defends CBI's exemption from RTI, cites national security
    NDTV Correspondent, Updated: June 21, 2011 10:27 IST

    New Delhi: The Government says it is working for a tough anti-corruption body through the Lokpal Bill. But it is now defending its action of shielding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the Right to Information (RTI) Act. "The CBI is investigating various matters which involve national security. Therefore based on the opinion given to us by the Attorney General, we have done it (exempted the CBI)," V Narayanaswamy, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, told NDTV on Monday.

    The CBI has refused to make public, the information about disproportionate asset cases against government servants, including bureaucrats and ministers. The Centre, through a notification issued on June 9, had placed the agency in the organisations listed in the second schedule of Section 24 of the RTI Act, which also comprises intelligence and security agencies. "The Government of India...has placed the Central Bureau of Investigation at Serial Number 23 of the second schedule of the Right to Information Act, this act is not applicable to the Central Bureau of Investigation," CBI joint director Prabodh Kumar said in reply to an RTI application filed by activist SC Agarwal.

    Mr Agrawal had filed four RTI applications, three months before CBI got exemption, seeking details of corruption cases accusing officials and ministers of amassing disproportionate assets. The questions asked by him pertained to recoveries done by the agency from the accused and fine slapped on corrupt officials on the orders of courts.

    The Central Public Information Officer of the agency refused to provide information, saying it was "voluminous".


    In his appeal before the Central Information Commission, Mr Agrawal pleaded that since his petition and first appeal were filed prior to date of notification exempting CBI, provisions of the said notification should not be applicable to his case. "Even otherwise, section 24 of RTI Act clearly stipulates that information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation shall be provided even if some organisations are placed in second schedule of RTI Act," Mr Agarwal said.

    Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has criticised the CBI's stand. "Exempting CBI would amount to misapplication of Section 24 of the RTI Act much against the intention of Parliament, and militating against a primary objective of the Act, which as stated in the Objects and Reasons is 'to contain corruption'," Mr Habibullah said. The former Chief Information Commissioner who demitted office on September 30 last year said apprehensions cited in some quarters that through RTI Act CBI could be "compelled" to give sensitive information about probe cases, and reveal identity of crucial witness, are "mistaken" as section 8 of the RTI Act provides safeguards against such information.

    CBI sources told PTI that the provisions of section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 gives case-to-case basis of application of exemption. However, they said it is not possible to decide in such a fashion on secrecy of individual documents or pieces of information. "Seemingly innocuous or unobjectionable" pieces of information might seem harmless but when placed in conjunction with each other, the "mosaic of a dangerous picture" affecting the security of the nation can emerge, they said. (With PTI inputs)
     
  3. Hembo

    Hembo OLD MOD STAR MEMBER

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    Exempting CBI from RTI could be ''counter-productive'': Fmr-CIC
    PTI | 08:06 PM,Jun 20,2011

    CBI is now exempted from any disclosure under the transparency law except those pertaining to "allegations" of corruption and human rights violations. Habibullah said the Standing Committee of Parliament on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, which vetted the RTI bill in 2004-05, observed in the Section 24 was intended "solely for agencies involved in duties relating to national security and maintenance of law and order." "Exempting CBI would amount to misapplication of Section 24 of the RTI Act much against the intention of Parliament, and militating against a primary objective of the Act, which as stated in the Objects and Reasons is 'to contain corruption'," he said. The former Chief Information Commissioner who demitted office on September 30 last year said apprehensions cited in some quarters that through RTI Act CBI could be "compelled" to give sensitive information about probe cases, and reveal identity of crucial witness, are "mistaken" as section 8 of the RTI Act provides safeguards against such information. "Transparency in the functioning of the CBI within the limits prescribed by the law is the most desirable means for ensuring its accountability, and this was wholeheartedly the view of the Director Vijay Shanker when the Act came into force," he said.Habibullah said CBI investigates allegations of corruption in government and PSU offices which cannot be exempted from disclosure under the first proviso of the very clause of Section 24 in which CBI has now been listed. CBI sources said the provisions of section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 gives case-to-case basis of application of exemption. However, they said it is not possible to decide in such a fashion on secrecy of individual documents or pieces of information. "Seemingly innocuous or unobjectionable" pieces of information might seem harmless but when placed in conjunction with each other, the "mosaic of a dangerous picture" affecting the security of the nation can emerge, they said.
     
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