Disclose phone tapping information: CIC to CBI
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Last Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 18:20
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".


First Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 18:20

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