Spilt Decision – RTI News

Appeal No. CIC/AT/A/2008/01238 dated 19.09.2008
Right to Information Act 2005 – Section 19

Parties to the Case:

Appellants : Shri C. Seetharamaiah
Public Authority : Commissionerate of Customs & Central Excise
Third-party : Central Bureau of Investigation
Date of Decision : 07.06.2010

This second-appeal by Shri C. Seetharamaiah is against the order of the Appellate Authority, Office of the Commissioner of Customs, Central Excise & Service Tax, Guntur, dated 09.04.2008, in which the Appellate Authority upheld the CPIO’s reply dated 13.02.2008 to appellant’s RTI-application dated 25.01.2008.

2. Appellant’s RTI-application dated 25.01.2008 read as follows:- “My son C.S. Srinivas is working in Central Excise, Guntur Commissionerate as an Inspector. He had worked in Gujarat on deputation in 2001-2002 and joined his duties in Parent Department i.e. Central Excise Commissionerate, Guntur in November, 2002.

It is learnt that the CBI had sought for prosecution of my son with regard to matters pertaining to discharge of official duties while on deputation and the same was sanctioned. In this regard I request you to kindly provide the information under the Right to Information Act, 2005 in respect of the following:

requesting for sanction of prosecution and thereafter till the · The correspondence of CBI (the authority seeking the prosecution) with the Additional Commissioner (P&V) sanction of prosecution by the disciplinary authority.

· Certified photocopies of the entire file proceedings for thesanction of prosecution against my son including the note side pages. It is pertinent here to submit that there are several decisions with regard to the permissibility of issue of note sheets also under the RTI Act, 2005. (A copy of the latest judgement dt.26.12.2007 of Central Information Commission in the case of Shri A.N. Gupta is enclosed for ready reference). Two similar judgements dt.23.06.2006 and 25.04.2007 are also enclosed.
· The details of telephone conversation if any, the disciplinaryauthority had with CBI in this issue.”

3. CPIO, through his reply dated 13.02.2008, quoted Section 8(1)(h) of the Act to deny the information to the appellant stating that as appellant’s son, Shri C.S. Srinivas, working as Inspector of Central Excise in Guntur Commissionerate, was facing prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in the CBI Court, the requested information, if disclosed, would impede the process of such prosecution.

4. In his order dated 09.04.2008, Appellate Authority noted as follows:-
“I observe that the applicant’s request in this case was for supply of copies of information / documents / file notings and correspondence as well as Telephonic conversations had by the Competent Authority of this department who accorded a sanction for prosecution of the applicant’s son by the Centre Bureau of Investigation, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

As the information sought for also includes the Third party’s investigation report i.e. CBI’s report, the matter was referred to the investigating agency i.e. CBI (Third party) for their views / advice in terms of Sec.11 of RTI Act, 2005. The CBI, DIG (Appellate authority), Mumbai had informed that the documents pertaining to communication with CBI regarding the instant case may not be revealed as case is under trial and parting with these documents at this stage would impede the prosecution of offenders vide their letter dated 02/04/2008 and requested to deny the information under the provisions of section 8(h) of RTI Act, 2005. Now, the issue that remains to be decided is whether that part of the correspondence and note file that was dealt with by this office in connection with the proceedings relating to sanction of prosecution against the applicant’s son. The investigation report forms part of the material that has been duly considered by the Competent Authority, i.e., the Additional Commissioner (Personnel and Vigilance) of Guntur Commissionerate while sanctioning the prosecution is an inseparable part of the correspondence file. Providing any kind of access with the same, at this juncture, is equally impede the criminal proceedings that was already launched and in progress before the Court of Law at Ahmedabad, but also runs counter to the opinion tendered by the investigating agency, CBI.
As of now, the matter is sub-judice and of the opinion that there is due process of law under which the affected party himself can obtain documents to defend him through the Honourable Court. Hence, exemption from disclosure of information under section 8(1)(h) has correctly been invoked by the CPIO in as much as the criminal prosecution launched against the several persons including the appellant’s son Shri C.S. Srinivas is in progress. The decisions passed by the Hon’ble Central Information Commission and cited by the Appellant are distinguishable to the appeal before me as the facts discussed in the decisions cited by the applicant are materially different from the facts and circumstances from the present appeal. The appeal is accordingly rejected.”

5. This matter initially came up for hearing before the Single Bench of Shri A.N. Tiwari, Information Commissioner on 03.02.2009 and 06.04.2009, when the matter was referred to a Three-Member-Bench comprising Shri A.N. Tiwari, Shri Satyananda Mishra and Shri Shailesh Gandhi, Information Commissioners, due to the fact that certain important points of law needed to be decided.

6. The first hearing before the Three-Member-Bench was held on 07.08.2009 through videoconferencing when the matter was adjourned for fresh hearing following submissions by both parties.

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