CIC: denial of correspondence with CBI relating to prosecution of Appellant u/s 8(1)(h) upheld - CIC: disclosure of information has not been expressly forbidden by court; denial of information merely due to pendency of the case in High Court rejected
In this file, we are dealing with two RTI applications, both dated 17.3.2012, filed by the Appellant, seeking information on eight points in each one of them. The CPIO responded to the first application vide his letters dated 19.4.2012 and 15.6.2012. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 28.6.2012. In his order dated 28.7.2012, the FAA upheld the CPIO’s reply. The Appellant approached the CIC in second appeal on 19.9.2012. The CPIO responded to the second application on 19.4.2012 and 15.6.2012. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 2.5.2012. The FAA upheld the decision of the CPIO. The Appellant approached the CIC in second appeal on 15.9.2012
2. We heard the submissions of the Appellant and the Respondents. It is noted that both the applications sought information, partly on disciplinary proceedings conducted against the Appellant and partly regarding the correspondence involving the CBI regarding prosecution of the Appellant. The CPIO had provided some information, but denied most of the information under Section 8(1)(h) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; of the RTI Act, on the ground that its disclosure would hamper an ongoing departmental enquiry or hamper CBI investigation / prosecution. The Respondents confirmed in today’s hearing that the departmental enquiry has been completed and a penalty was imposed on the Appellant. He has challenged this penalty and the matter is pending in the High Court. They further submitted that a case is also pending against the Appellant in a CBI Court. The Appellant claimed that the bank refused to grant sanction for prosecution to the CBI and that the CBI was prosecuting him wrongfully. He further stated that it was in this context that he needed the details of the correspondence involving the CBI regarding his prosecution. The Appellant has also stated that the Respondents were wrong in denying information merely on the ground that an investigation process was pending against him. In this context, he has quoted the judgment dated 3.12.2007 of the Delhi High Court in Bhagat Singh vs. Chief Information Commissioner and Ors., in which the High Court had held that the mere existence of an investigation process could not be a ground for refusal of the information; the authority withholding information must show satisfactory reason as to why the release of such information would hamper the investigation process.
3. We will first deal with the queries in the RTI applications concerning the correspondence involving the CBI. As noted above, a case against the Appellant is pending in a CBI court. In this context, we note that the disclosure of communications between the CBI and a public authority, regarding sanction for prosecution, was considered by a three Member Bench of the Commission in another case in 2010 on File No. CIC/AT/A/2008/01238. In its decision dated 7.6.2010, arrived at with majority of two to one, the Commission had denied disclosure of information in that case. The factors taken into account by the Commission in arriving at its above decision are germane to the case before us also. The Commission had noted:
“ In our view, an information which is evidence or is related to evidence in an ongoing prosecution comes under the control of the Trial Court within the meaning of Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, which states as follows:“ right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to.....” “The word “under the control of” implies that the information, regardless of which public authority holds it, is under the control of a specific public authority on whose orders alone it can be produced in a given proceeding. In the present case, the material sought by the appellant is undoubtedly related to an ongoing court proceeding and hence it can be rightly said to be under the control of the Trial Court, who alone can decide how the information is to be dispensed. Any action under the RTI Act or any other Act for disclosure of that information to the very party who is arraigned before the Trial Court or to anyone representing that party, would have the effect of interfering with the discretion of the Court, thereby impeding an extant prosecution proceeding.”
4. In the above context, the Commission had also noted the following observations of the Delhi High Court in S. M. Lamba vs. S. C. Gupta and Anr.:“This court would like to observe that under the code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 once the stage of an order framing charges have been crossed, it would be open to the accused to make an appropriate application before the learned trial court to summon the above documents in accordance with the law.”
5. Taking into account the above, the Commission had stated, “It is, therefore, important that all determinations about disclosure of any information relating to an ongoing prosecution should be through the agency of the Trial Court and not otherwise.”
6. Having carefully considered the submissions made before us and taking into account the above observations of the Commission, we would not interfere with the decision of the Respondents to deny information in response to the queries concerning the correspondence involving the CBI.
7. We now come to certain information sought by the Appellant regarding the departmental proceedings against him. In this context, the Respondents submitted that they have already provided a copy of the enquiry report to the Appellant. The Appellant acknowledged having received it, though he submitted that it had been given to him with considerable delay. The issue of query No. 2 in the first RTI application and query No. 4 in the second RTI application also came up. These queries read as follows:
Query No. 2 in the first RTI application “Whether the Disciplinary Authority in the matter of Departmental Proceedings against S. K. Abrol, General Manager of the Bank has fully agreed with the findings of Sri. Ashok Kumar, Commissioner for Departmental Inquires, Central vigilance Commission in his report dated 30.9.2010 that none of the charges alleged against S. K. Abrol has been proved?”
Query No. 4 in the second RTI application “Certified copy of the proceedings of the Disciplinary Authority in the matter of Departmental Proceedings against S. K. Abrol, General Manager of the Bank fully agreeing with the findings of Sri Ashok Kumar, Commissioner for Departmental Inquires, Central Vigilance Commission in his Report dated 30.9.2010 that none of the charges alleged against S. K. Abrol has been proved.”
The Respondents stated that since the appellant has challenged the penalty imposed on him and the matter is pending in the High Court, they were not in a position to respond to the above queries. We do not agree with the above argument of the Respondents, particularly since they did not submit that disclosure of information in this case has been expressly forbidden by the court. Since the departmental enquiry was completed quite some time ago (2010), information in response to the above mentioned two queries ought to be provided to the Appellant. The CPIO is directed to do so within fifteen days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission.
8. With the above directions and observations, the two appeals are disposed of.
9. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Sudershan Kumar Abrol v. Syndicate Bank in File No. CIC/VS/A/2013/000538/SH