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EC Secretariat cannot seek exemption, if info is held by CEC: CIC

The Election Commission Secretariat cannot seek exemption from disclosure of information held by the office of the Chief Election Commissioner under the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has ruled.



New Delhi: The Election Commission
Secretariat cannot seek exemption from disclosure of
information held by the office of the Chief Election
Commissioner under the RTI Act, the Central Information
Commission has ruled.

The case relates to a Delhi-based activist Jagdish
Jetli`s Right to Information (RTI) plea seeking details of
complaint received against Chief Election Commissioner Navin
Chawla from the Bhartiya Janta Party and the follow-up action
on the same.

Initially, the information was withheld by the Election
Commission (EC) saying as per "press reports" the Chief
Election Commissioner has sent some communication to the
President of India along with the complaints of BJP and
disclosure may impede the process of investigation by the
President.

During the hearing, K L Wilfred, Secretary, Election
Commission submitted that under Article 324(5) of the
Constitution such matters are dealt with by the office of the
Chief Election Commissioner and not by the EC Secretariat.
Hence the response to the information was not held by the EC.

"The plea of respondent Mr Wilfred in the hearing that
the information sought is held by the office of Chief Election
Commissioner and not by the Secretariat, cannot be accepted as
the office of the Chief Election Commissioner is surely a part
of the Election Commission (EC) unless it is decided to set up
a separate institutional framework for servicing RTI
applications in the office of Chief Election Commissioner,"
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

He directed the officials to get information from the
office of Chief Election Commissioner and provide the details
to the RTI applicant.

The Central Public Information Officer should have taken
recourse to provisions of RTI Act in obtaining from Chief
Election Commissioner the information sought by appellant
which "has not been done", Habibullah said.

The CIC said claiming exemption under section 8(1)(h) for
a matter which concerns no offence at all but legal opinion or
no such opinion, simply consideration of a complaint is
nothing short of absurd, particularly when the CPIO himself
has claimed that he has no access to the information sought.

PTI

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