May 13, 2011 12:05:16 am
The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) request to be put on the list of government entities exempted from providing information to applicants under the Right to Information Act,2005,has virtually divided the government,with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) meeting on Friday to discuss the demand.
Giving an interesting twist to the entire matter is the fact that an opinion given by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati on the subject categorically says that if the CBI request is accepted,other government departments and investigative agencies could follow suit with similar pleas.
Vahanvati,incidentally,has said in his legal opinion that the request of the agency could be favourably considered,while at the same time differing with Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniums opinion on the same issue on some points.
Subramanium is learnt to have opined that the CBI could be given exemption from providing information under the RTI Act,except in matters concerning administration,personnel,finance,accounts,budget and training.
The basis for the CBI request,which has been kept pending by the central government,is the agencys feeling that the increase in volume of applicants demanding file-notings on closed or chargesheeted cases was threatening its functioning.
At the first meeting of the CoS,which has Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar as chairman and the secretaries of the ministries of Home,Law,Legislative,Personnel and Legal Affairs as members,held on April 25,many members opposed the CBI demand.
Sources said one of the members even said that if the government accepts the CBI request,it could send a signal that the agency,already facing questions of credibility,was trying to become more opaque.
Incidentally,the CoS was unanimous that NATGRID and National Investigation Agency (NIA) should be put in the exempted list.
Some members of the CoS were of the view that the CBIs case was different from agencies such as NIA as much of what was being done by such agencies had internal security or international ramifications.
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