New Delhi: In an example of callousness in handling applications filed under the RTI Act, the CBI has sent a reply dated even before the application was filed, apparently aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal.
Sending backdated communication for application under statutory provisions is a serious offence under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Under Section 18 of the Act, a CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) can be slapped with a penalty for giving "false and misleading" information.
If sending backdated communication was not enough, the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency also returned the postal order of RTI fee which is again an offence under the transparency law.
Claiming exemption from disclosure under the RTI Act, CPIO Ratan Sanjay returned the RTI application, along with the fee, seeking status of closed Preliminary Enquiries related to allegations of corruption -- an information which is provided in the annual report of the agency, a public document.
Ironically, the reply no. 568/1-RTI/CBI/AC-II/2015 is dated January 3, 2015 whereas the application was dated January 16, 2015, showing that the agency might be using templates to respond to applications without applying mind to the information sought.
Sending backdated reply apparently could also be aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal.
The then Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had sought the intervention of then CBI Director A P Singh, underlining that the agency was returning the applications after CBI was brought in the list of organisations exempted from the RTI Act.
Singh had then directed the officials to not return the RTI applications but with new Director Anil Sinha at the helm of affairs, the practice of returning the applications has again started. (More) PTI ABS
Section 24 of RTI Act, cited by the CBI officers while
rejecting the information, says, "Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the central government or any information furnished by such organisations to that government.
"Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section."
Describing the exemption clause of the RTI Act, Mishra had said, "It casts an obligation on the CPIO of the exempted organisation to entertain all requests for information pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violations".
"It (the exemption clause) does not make any distinction between the exempted organisations on the basis of the functions they perform nor between the allegations of corruption on the basis of whether it is made against the employee of the exempt organisation or against others," he had said in his order.