Monday, March 21, 2011

Information on corruption can't be withheld under RTI Act: CIC

Information on allegations of corruption is not excluded from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.
The information could be furnished by applying the severability clause under Section 10, Information Commissioner Sushma Singh said in an order passed on an appeal filed by Vishwanath Swami, a social activist of Chennai. Seeking information on every purchase made by the Narcotic Control Bureau for office modernisation from 1999 to 2006, he alleged that all purchases were made from a single company, D3D Technologies, without calling for open tenders.
Initially, on Mr. Swamy's application under the RTI Act, the NCB Zonal Director, Chennai, said the company was selected on the basis of competency and it quoted the rate directly and through the Kendriya Bhandar as per rules and regulations. Not satisfied with the reply, Mr. Swamy filed an appeal but the First Appellate Authority (FAA) denied copies of the documents stating they were exempt under the RTI Act.
The FAA said: “Access for any person to these documents such as quotations will expose the secrecy involved in such sensitive investigations and also the apprehension and prosecution of offenders by the NCB.” The present appeal before the CIC is directed against this order.
The Commission said: “The appellant alleges that a huge amount of government money has been illegally siphoned off. In order to expose this rampant corruption and pursue this matter to its logical end, he needs the documents which he has already requested and peruse the file related only to the purchases made by the then Director.”
Under Section 24, “the information pertaining to allegations of corruption is not excluded from disclosure from an exempted organisation under the RTI Act.”

Names to be given

While rejecting the appellant's request for inspecting the documents, the Commission asked the authorities to provide within 20 days the names of companies and addresses from which quotations were called; to provide comparative statement/quotations from various suppliers of hardware and software equipment/system and other requisite information sought.

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