New Delhi: The disclosure of charge-sheets filed by an investigation agency cannot be withheld on the ground it will impede the probe, Central Information Commission on Monday decided.
However, the Commission added a caveat that making them public has to be decided on a case to case basis whether the information contained in it comes under exemption clauses given in Sections 8 or 9 of the RTI Act.
"As per the Criminal Procedure, the charge-sheet is the end product of investigation. With filing of charge-sheet, the investigation is closed and defense that investigation might get impeded does not stand at all," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.
He added that the next question is "whether revealing the information impedes apprehension or prosecution".
The Commissioner said charge-sheet can neither be prohibited "enbloc" from disclosure nor disclosed totally.
"The Commission holds that the charge-sheet is a public document and it shall be disclosed subject to other restrictions provided under RTI Act. There cannot be a general hard and fast rule that every charge-sheet could be disclosed or should not be," Acharyulu said in his order which will have a wide ranging impact.
So far the investigation agencies were taking a plea that charge-sheets can only be accessed from the court under the provisions of the CrPC and cannot be shared under the RTI Act despite the Act having overriding powers.
The case relates to RTI application filed by one Usha Kant Asiwal seeking information about a probe carried out by the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Delhi Government.
In a detailed order, Acharyulu said the charge-sheet is like a file or record held by the investigating officer, or public authority or court of law.
As per the RTI Act, any information held by the public authority can be accessed by the citizen subject to the exemptions under Section 8, he said.