Kunal Majumder questions the government’s motives in keeping the CBI out of RTI
The worst fear of Right to Information (RTI) activists has come true. The government has moved the premier, yet controversial, investigative agency the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) out of the RTI purview. Their excuse is national security. Ignoring the already present provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act, that safeguards sensitive information, the government decided to give the CBI a blanket exemption. What is more shocking is the secretive manner in which this change was brought about. In March this year, RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had filed four RTI petitions with the CBI demanding to know details of the corruption cases involving bureaucrats and ministers. In response, the CBI declined information, calling it voluminous. Agrawal then made his first appeal with the Appellate Authority of the CBI in May. However, on 16 June, the Appellate Authority refused to intervene and informed him that according to a government notification dated 9 June, the CBI had been moved from the purview of the RTI Act. This notification was not even made public before 20 June.
Meanwhile, last month, the Committee of Secretaries under the chair of then Cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar recommended the RTI exemption for the CBI, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the NatGrid. When Tehelka raised alarm about the immediacy of the decision, Chandrasekhar assured that there would be many more discussions, including at the level of the Union Cabinet and the Prime Minister. There was no timeframe specified to complete this process. But, then suddenly on 16 June, we read news reports of government’s decision to exempt the CBI from the RTI act. We probably would not have known, if it were not for Agrawal’s rejected application.