New Delhi: The Central Information
Commission on Wednesday directed the CBI to make public reports
relating to discharge of US-based hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal
from two cases of alleged bank fraud.
The CBI had refused to share information about the
closing of alleged bank fraud cases against Chatwal saying two
cases, "interconnected" with the closed cases, were still
pending in court and disclosing these reports might adversely
affect the prosecution.
When the matter reached the transparency panel, RTI
applicant Krishnanand Tripathi argued that there was no
investigation underway in the cases against Chatwal hence the
information be disclosed.
He also alleged that the CBI was "deliberately" trying
to suppress information about a "high profile NRI hotelier" as
the copy of charge sheet and orders of court were public
"A very peculiar claim was made that though the two
cases for which information was being sought have been
discharged, there are two other fraud cases which are being
pursued in which some of the bank officers are the same. No
evidence has been given as to how giving the information would
impede the prosecution of offenders," Information Commissioner
Shailesh Gandhi pointed out.
The CBI had registered, between 1992 and 1994, five
cases against Chatwal and some bank officials for allegedly
conniving with the intention of defrauding the Bank of Baroda
and Bank of India.
Three of these cases against Chatwal, who received Padma
Bhushan last year, were closed by CBI itself during the tenure
of the then directors Vijay Shanker and Ashwani Kumar while
charge sheets were filed by the agency in two cases before the
Court of Special Judge, CBI, Mumbai. In these two cases, the
court discharged Chatwal.
In his application, Tripathi had sought copies of
charge sheets against Chatwal, copies of judgments delivered
in the cases, recommendations made by legal and investigating
officers after he was exonerated, advice given by Director of
Prosecution and final observations and decisions made by the
then CBI Directors.
Gandhi said Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act cited by the
agency exempts disclosure of information which would impede
the process of investigation, apprehension, or prosecution.
"No claim has been made that any investigation is
continuing, and the fact that some bank officers (who were
also accused in the cases) are being prosecuted in two other
matters cannot justify refusal to give information in the
matters relating to Sant Singh Chatwal," Gandhi said.
"Frivolously refusing information by claiming one of the
10 exemptions in Section 8(1) without giving explanation is an
unwarranted denial of citizens` fundamental right. No proper
explanation has been given for denying the information," he
said while directing the CBI to provide information by May 31.
He also issued show cause notice to CBI official for not
providing timely information.