New Delhi: For how long should a citizen wait
for information in a case which is pending for more than 23
years, Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra on Wednesday
asked while slamming the CBI for withholding information in the
Bofors pay-offs scam.
The case related to an RTI application seeking to know
the reasons for filing case withdrawal application against one
of the prime accused, Italian Businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi,
in the Delhi High Court.
RTI applicant Ajay Agrawal had also wanted to know from
the CBI about the brief given to the then Additional Solicitor
General B Dutta who went to London in 2005 for de-freezing
accounts of Quattrocchi and under whose orders he visited the
The CBI said disclosure of these details could adversely
affect its prosecution and the information should be withheld
as per provisions of the RTI Act.
"How can giving reasons for filing withdrawal application
in the court have any bearing on the case...You yourself (CBI)
have said in the court that you don`t want to pursue the case.
You have made your desire to drop proceedings public," Mishra
asked the CBI.
Rajiv Sharma, a CBI official representing the agency,
said the court is yet to decide on the withdrawal application
and the details on the reasons sought by the applicant contain
the strength and weaknesses of the case.
If CBI`s position is not accepted by the court, the
weaknesses of the case can be exploited by the accused to
"weaken our prosecution," he said.
"For how long should a case be pending or the prosecution
be continuing after which a resident of India can exercise the
Right to Information? This case has been pending for last 23
years. By your (CBI) admission you are saying that you want to
withdraw the case because you are not able to get that man,"
Mishra also asked the CBI why it was withholding the
details of the brief given to B Dutta.
"Not all the queries relate to prosecution. For example
the visit of Dutta...What was Dutta`s brief and what did Mr
Dutta told the court, already being available in public, can
have any effect of prosecution?" he asked.
"At every stage you are saying every information is part
of prosecution...If account of accused is defrozen with the
consent of prosecution, does anybody need any information? In
fact assumption is quite clear that prosecution itself agreed
for the de-freezing of account," Mishra said.
The CBI said regarding Dutta`s brief that some
information was collected from Sweden, the United Kingdom and
Switzerland which cannot be made public because of the
confidentiality agreement signed by Indian government with
Mishra also sought to know from the CBI if any court has
restricted the agency from making information public in the
case to which it replied in the negative. The decision was
reserved and both parties were given time to file further