The government’s move to exempt CBI from the Right to Information Act has met with widespread criticism from activists who have described it as a “retrograde” step.
Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy said it was a matter of concern. “This is a serious issue and I will try and raise it in the NAC meeting on Wednesday,” she said.
The government recently exempted CBI as an “intelligence gathering and security agency” along with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) by placing them in the second schedule of the RTI Act. Activists have argued that the agency investigates cases of corruption and criminality rather than work in the arena of intelligence gathering. Other agencies that are already under the exempted list include Research& Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and Enforcement Directorate.
National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI)’s Shekhar Singh called the move retrograde adding that the decision was taken without any public debate and was in violation of the very purpose of the RTI Act. “This is clearly a case of misuse of the powers delegated by Parliament to the government. The move is patently illegal and illegitimate and may set a dangerous precedent as many state governments will feel encouraged to insulate their entire police force and anti-corruption agencies in a similar manner,” he said.
MKSS’ Nikhil Dey said that he along with colleagues in NCPRI felt there was need to define what an intelligence and security agency was and to evaluate all those exempted under this category under the RTI Act.
Criticising the decision to exclude CBI from the ambit of RTI, activist Arvind Kejriwal accused the government of not bringing it under an independent Lokpal to “arm-twist” political leaders opposed to it. “The government is interested in keeping CBI under its control so that it can arm-twist opponents and scuttle any investigation against their own people,” Kejriwal said.
He also noted that CBI did not deal with security and intelligence and could not be clubbed with agencies like Intelligence Bureau or RAW.
Activist S C Agrawal said with the inclusion of three more organisations — CBI, NIA and NATGRID — in the second schedule of RTI Act without any consultations, it is was clear the government was bent upon killing the RTI Act. “Such regular addition to second schedule (of exempting organizations) has raised the number from the original 18 to 25,” he said.