The Madhya Pradesh Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has asked the state Government to remove the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Lokaykuta Sangathan and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) from the list of agencies exempted under the Right to Information Act.
The Government tried to protect these establishments by refusing to provide information about them, the Commissioner said, adding that, "it amounts to escaping through the back door". The state has been given 15 days to amend the earlier notification and asked to submit compliance report by September 14, 2007.
The general administration department in a notification dated October 13, 2005 had clubbed these establishments under "intelligence and security agencies" category, thus exempting them from the ambit of the RTI Act. Two applicants-advocate Prakash Upadhyay, a resident of Jabalpur, and Ramnarayan Rathore, a resident of Sehore-were denied information related to these establishments and their separate applications turned down.
CIC P P Tiwari held that that Lokayukta, EOW and CID mainly dealt with corruption-related offences and could not be clubbed with intelligence and security agencies. He said the law was very clear: any agency that deals with corruption and violation of human rights can't be kept out of the Act's purview.
"It's unfortunate that legal and constitutional agencies from whom people have high expectations try to escape from a revolutionary law that encourages transparency, accountability and openness," said Tiwari, adding that it goes without saying that any notification which violates the Act is null and void. To avoid any confusion, the Government should amend the notification and make necessary changes within a fortnight, the CIC said.
Tiwari said the applicants were entitled to receive the information they wanted and asked the public information officer (PIO) to provide information available with him within seven days, free of cost. He also directed the PIO to send a compliance report.
The CIC said confusion was created for a long time though the law is very clear in such matters. The PIO has been asked to explain why he should not be penalised under Section 20(1) of the Act.