New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has in a landmark judgement today declared that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, on Black Money, is a Public Authority as per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
The Commission has directed the Competent Authority in the SIT to appoint the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO)/First Appellate Authority (FAA) in compliance with the provisions of the RTI Act.
The order to this affect has been passed by Bimal Julka, Information Commissioner, in response to a complaint by one Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, regarding an RTI application to seek information on 7 points regarding photocopy of letter reportedly written by Herve’ Falcini, Former Employee of the Geneva Branch of HSBC Bank to the Chairman, Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted on the basis of an order passed by the Supreme Court on 4 July 2011 in WP (Civil) No. 176 of 2009, and responses sent by the Chairman and others serving the conceredn SIT to Mr. Herve’ Falcini especiallly the file notings held by the SIT in relation to the letter of Mr. Herve’ Falcini and the connected issues.
The CPIO and DCIT (OSD) on 9 December 2015, provided a point-wise response to the Complainant denying information on points 1 to 4 u/s 8(1)(e) & 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Regarding points 5 to 7, it was stated that the information was likely to be available with the office of the Joint Secretary (Revenue) and Member Secretary to SIT, Department of Revenue. Thus the RTI application was ransferred to the concerned department u/s 6 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Complainant approached the FAA. The FAA, passed an order on 12 February 2016, while upholding the reply of the CPIO, directed the CPIO to transfer points 1 to 4 of the RTI application to the CPIO office of the Joint Secretary (Revenue) and Member Secretary of the SIT for appropriate action under the RTI Act. It was further stated that the CPIO should have been more careful and diligent in use of the language and words while transferring the RTI application to the other CPIO which prima facie indicates to suggest requirement of action on the part of the Appellant. The CPIO was also directed to strictly adhere to the time limit prescribed under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act for transferring the RTI applications to other CPIO, in future.
In the Complaint filed by the Complainant before the Commission, it was submitted that the complainant was fully aware of the ratio decidendi contained in the judgment of Supreme Court of India in the matter of CIC and Anr. Vs. State of Manipur & Anr. (AIR 2012 SC 864). In this matter the Supreme Court recognized the supervisory jurisdiction of the Central Information Commission under Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, the order passed today underscores that the Complaint was not about seeking direction to the Respondent Authority for disclosure of information in the RTI application instead the Complaint was being submitted for a direction to the Respondent Authority to comply with the applicable provisions of the RTI Act and make a decision on the information requested in the RTI application. During hearling in this matter it was argued that the provisions relating to Appeals under Section 19 of the RTI Act do not provide for any suitable remedy in this regard.
The Complainant submitted before the Commission that in the present matter he was not seeking direction for information but was essentially praying to the Commission for issue of appropriate orders recognising the Special Investigation Team (SIT), Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance on Black Money as a “Public Authority” within the terms of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005 and a direction to the Respondent Authority to appoint a CPIO u/s 5 (1) and a FAA u/s 19 (1) of the RTI Act for the purpose of receiving and disposing RTI application and First Appeal respectively.
Click here for CIC order