Chennai: The Madras High Court, on Friday upheld the Centre`s decision to exclude the CBI from the ambit of the RTI Act, holding that it found no error in the government`s position that the investigating agency was a security and intelligence organisation.
"We find no error in the decision of the government of India to include the CBI in the Second Schedule of the RTI Act," a bench comprising Chief Justice, M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanan held, dismissing a petition challenging the Centre`s June 9 notification excluding the CBI from the Act.
The second schedule exempts security and intelligence organisations from disclosing any information under the transparency act except in certain cases including allegations of human rights violations.
Passing orders on the petition filed by RTI activist and advocate S Vijayalakashmi, the court said, the matter had been considered at all levels before the government decided that the CBI was a security and intelligence organisation.
"We find no justifiable reasons to depart from such findings, which appears to have been arrived at after considering all materials placed before the government, taken
note of by the Committee of Secretaries and other authorities, prior to issuance of the impugned notification," it said.
Noting that intelligence led approach had enabled the CBI to make headway in sensitive cases with a direct bearing on national and internal security, the court said, "Therefore, we are convinced that the CBI could very well be termed as an
intelligence agency of the government of India."
On the question, whether the CBI was both an intelligence and security organisation, the bench said, the security of the state could be affected in various ways including corruption involving officials, unauthorised disclosure of state secrets, economic offences to destabilise national economy.
"Therefore, intelligence gathering is an inseparable part of the work of a security agency. Thus it can be safely concluded that the security of the state is a very broad concept," the judges said, adding they were convinced CBI would qualify to be defined as a security organisation as well.
Indisputably, the CBI was dealing with so many cases of larger public interest and the disclosure of information "shall have great impact not only within the country but abroad also and jeopardise its work", the Bench said.
The court did not entertain the apprehension that the CBI, by virtue of its inclusion in the second schedule, had got a blanket exemption.
Information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation by the CBI were not excluded under sub-section (1) of Section 24 of the RTI Act, it pointed out.