The Supreme Court of India has received a plea challenging the government’s decision taken in 2011 to keep CBI out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act seeking an early hearing.
Delhi High Court was the first to take account of this case, but later transferred to the Apex Court after the Centre had said that several petitions in this regard have been filed in different high courts across the country.
In 2011 a Public Interest Litigation was filedin the Delhi High Court by advocate Ajay Agrawal, who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Rai Bareilly constituency against Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
In July 2011, the HC had issued notices to the government and the CBI as the advocate had alleged that the agency was brought out of the ambit of the RTI as he had sought information regarding documents relating to the politically-sensitive Bofors payoff scandal case.
The government had told the high court that the exemption granted to the CBI under RTI was not a “blanket exemption” and does not warrant judicial interference.
The petition said that exemption from RTI was prevelant for intelligence and security organisations, including Intelligence Bureau, RAW, DRI and ED.
When the agency filed the plea for transfer of all similar matters from different high courts to the apex court, the proceedings before the Delhi High Court got stayed.
In the fresh application before the apex court, Agrawal has alleged that the notification was issued by the Centre “solely to scuttle the RTI appeal pending before the Chief Information Commissioner, New Delhi in regard to the Bofors case in which order was passed by the CIC directing the CBI to provide the requisite papers to the petitioner”.
In the application, he has alleged that the erstwhile UPA government’s decision was aimed at “only to save Ottavio Quattrochhi, the prime accused in Bofors scam”.
Agrawal, who has been pursuing Bofors payoff case for years, in his petition has sought quashing of the June 9, 2011 notification, contending that “by issuing the notification and placing CBI in the second Schedule, the government appears to be claiming absolute secrecy for CBI without the sanction of the law.”
He has contended that the “impugned notification No GSR 442(E) RTI Act, 2005 is ultravires to the RTI Act, 2005 as well as Constitution”.
The petition has claimed that government’s move appeared to be “arbitrary” in nature, as with no reasons advanced, “citizens are likely to deduce that the purpose of including CBI in the Second Schedule was to curb transparency and accountability from the investigations of several corruption cases against high-ranking Government officers”.