New Delhi: The Central Information
Commission has directed the CBI to disclose proposals sent
to Home Ministry seeking permission for tapping telephones.
Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, however,
allowed the agency to severe names and designations of the
persons mentioned in these proposals before furnishing the
information to an RTI applicant.
The case relates to an RTI application filed by one
Dharambir Khattar seeking details of the proposals sent by the
CBI to the MHA for its permission to intercept five phone
numbers alleging "that accused had connections with government
servants holding high positions including the judiciary".
The information was denied by the CBI citing exemption
clauses of the RTI Act and relying on a previous decision of
the transparency panel that orders of phone interception were
themselves sensitive for national security, sovereignty and
integrity and cannot, thus, cannot be disclosed.
The CBI said revealing the proposal is likely to have
an impact on the safety and security of the nation, disclose
the sources of information and impede the prosecution.
While hearing the matter, Gandhi asked the CBI to
produce the phone tapping proposals which were produced by the
agency in the absence of the applicant. After perusal of the
documents, Gandhi said he could not "find anything which could
remotely be connected with any matter of security".
He then asked the CBI officials to identify any words,
phrases or lines for which the exemptions of Section 8(1)(a),
(g) or (h) of the RTI Act would apply.
"They were unable to identify any material which they
could claim would harm the security of the country or impede
the process of prosecution," Gandhi pointed out.
Gandhi said the only specific claim CBI officials made
was that if the names of officers who made the proposal
was disclosed, it might endanger their safety.
"The respondents did not even make any attempt to
point out anything to the Commissioner, because there was
nothing...The proposals contained generic statements and had
nothing which was specific or disclosed anything which could
be claimed to be sensitive or specific," he observed.
He said the previous decision of the CIC exempting
phone interception was related to MHA`s copies of interception
orders and reports on the basis of which interception orders
were issued, note sheets where the reports were processed and
decision to sanction interception of phones was taken, which
was not the plea in the instant case.
The Information Commissioner rejected the contention
of the CBI that information cannot be given as the matter was
sub-judice saying "disclosing information on matters which are
sub- judice cannot constitute contempt of Court, unless there
is a specific order forbidding its disclosure".
"The Respondent (CBI) has failed to establish how
disclosure of this information would impede the process of
investigation or prosecution of the Appellant...(The CBI
official) has not been able to discharge the burden placed
upon him under the RTI Act to prove that the denial of
information was justified," Gandhi said.
Accepting the CBI argument that information about
officers mentioned in the tapping proposals may endanger their
safety, Gandhi said, "The Respondent is directed to provide to
the Appellant the proposal sent to MHA by omitting the names/
designation of the officers mentioned therein".