CIC orders disclosure of communication between PMO and DoPT over Haryana whistleblower

Asserting that people have a right to information about obstructions to political executive and bureaucratic machinery and their working, CIC has held that such records must be disclosed even if they attract exemption clauses because of larger public interests.

New Delhi: Asserting that people have a right to information about obstructions to political executive and bureaucratic machinery and their working, CIC has held that such records must be disclosed even if they attract exemption clauses because of larger public interests.

In a terse order, Central Information Commission has ordered the Centre to disclose communication exchanged between the PMO and DoPT on Haryana whistleblower Indian Forest Service officer Sajiv Chaturvedi who has allegedly been harassed by different governments.

Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu rejected the contention of Ministry of Environment and Forests, that it was a personal information exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act, after speaking to Chaturvedi over phone who said he did not have objections to the disclosure of records.

"The request...Clearly pertains to the public activity of the public servant working at top level of government and the matter relates to his performance of duty, leading to the harassment from the embarrassed leaders in the political government, such as frequent transfers or being dumped in loop line with unimportant assignments etc.," Acharyulu noted.

While hearing the plea of activist Subhash Agrawal, the CIC said the issue pertains protecting the honest officers who are fearlessly performing their duties, inviting the wrath of political bosses and fighting against the corruption, the disclosure of information will serve the public interest.

Agrawal had cited several reports claiming that Chaturvedi was being harassed by the Haryana government.

"In democracy, the people have right to information about working of or obstruction to both political executive and bureaucratic machinery. Even if there is any iota of doubt that any of exception under Section 8(1) might apply, the public interest will overweigh such protection as ordained under Section 8(2)," Acharyulu said.

Slamming the Environment Ministry, cadre controlling authority of Indian Forest Service Officers, Acharyulu said while citing personal and third party information to withhold information, it did not make any effort to seek Chaturvedi's views at all.

During the hearing while the Ministry officials were trying to justify reasons for denial of information, Acharyulu dialled the Sanjiv Chaturvedi to know whether he had any objections to disclosure of information to which said there was no such objection from his side as the matter was concerned with public activities.

"...Denial of information in this case is not legally correct. The Information sought is not at all personal information of Mr Chaturvedi. It is only a lame excuse put forward by the CPIO to deny the information," he said.

The CPIO, confident that it was a private information, should have initiated the process of obtaining views of Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Acharyulu said adding "Hence the bona fides of CPIO are doubtful."

"The CPIO could not produce any material or explanation to establish this point. Thus the information sought is not hit by any provision of Section 8(1)," he said.

Chaturvedi, who was removed from his post of Chief Vigilance Officer of AIIMS in August last year by the Health Ministry, has alleged before CAT that he was being "victimised" for exposing the corruption involving influential politicians and bureaucrats presently occupying important positions in the Central and state governments.

In 2013, the President had quashed a charge sheet against him by Haryana government.

In his representation, Chaturvedi had alleged he was being victimised for exposing herbal park scam in Jhajjar in which name of top political functionary of the state had emerged.  

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