As reported by Rahul Mangaonkar of TNN in The Times of India, Ahmedabad Edition dated 17 May 2008:
I-T investigation wing out of RTI ambit
Activists Up In Arms, Say Move Is Blow To Anti-Corruption Movement
Ahmedabad: The Right to Information Act aims at bringing in transparency, containing corruption and instilling the sense of accountability in citizens. But, Directorate General of Income-tax - Investigation (DGIT-I), which investigates income tax evasions, conducting searches, seizure and surveys, has been quietly put outside its ambit.
RTI activists are terming this silent exemption to DGITI, as a blow to anti-corruption and transparency movements in the country. They have also been asking how it can be considered either a ‘security or intelligence’ organization?
On March 28 this year, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) amended the Act’s schedules to exempt DGIT-I and two other organizations from RTI’s purview. Surprisingly, neither RTI activists nor chief information commissioner of Central Information Commission, Wajahat Habibullah, were aware of the move. “We are not aware of this notification and we will have to study it before commenting on it,” said Habibullah. Section 24 of RTI empowers central and state governments to put intelligence and security organizations in the schedule II, whereby RTI is not applicable to them.
However, this exemption is not applicable in cases of allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
Nikhil Dey of Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan, one of the founders of RTI movement, said, “This is complete misinterpretation of provisions and intent of RTI. DGITI can’t be considered as a security and intelligence-related organization. This shows how DoPT is trying to subvert RTI through backdoor moves. This is a blow to the anti-corruption movement.”
Magsaysay award recipient Arvind Kejriwal said, “This is news to me and it’s absolutely ridiculous! How can DGIT-I be exempted? This betrays the government’s intentions. We will challenge the notification in Delhi High Court.”
“Eventually, we will have to fight to sack schedule II itself as it is irrational. RTI has enough provisions to deny information pertaining to national interests. As long as section 24 and schedule II are in existence, such mischief will continue to protect vested interests” said Mumbai-based RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi.
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