Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Attorney General Bats For CBI Exclusion From RTI Act 2005

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating authority of India. It is, however, not at all an intelligence agency though it may be handling few intelligence related aspects or cases. Intelligence work was the main excuse that was given by Indian government to exempt CBI from the applicability of right to information act 2005 (RTI Act 2005).

Indian government also exempted national investigation agency of India (NIA) and national intelligence grid (Natgrid) from the applicability of RTI Act 2005. Interestingly, the constitutional validity of national investigation agency act, 2008 (NIA 2008) is still doubtful and CBI and Natgrid are not governed by any legal framework.

Attorney General of India Goolam Vahanvati has opined that the exclusion of CBI from the purview of RTI Act 2005 is justified on the ground that CBI was also involved in intelligence-gathering as well as safeguarding the country’s economic security. He, however, failed to understand that national security and fundamental rights must be reconciled and primacy of one over another without reconciliation attempts would itself violate the constitutional provisions.

Further, Natgrid, CBI and Intelligence Agencies of India are presently not “Accountable” to Parliament of India, informs Praveen Dalal, leading techno legal expert of India and CEO of Human Rights Protection Centre in Cyberspace of India. Human Rights are regularly targeted by Indian Government and its Agencies without “Constitutional Laws”. Without Parliamentary Scrutiny and Judicial Review these Agencies cannot be considered to be “Constitutional”. If these Agencies are themselves “Unconstitutional” their functioning is also “Unconstitutional”, suggests Dalal.

Vahanvati justifies the stand of Indian government by saying that while the “main purpose of intelligence gathering and assessment is prevention and occurrence of activities which would endanger the security of the country, it cannot be restricted only to gathering of intelligence prior to happening of an event but should extend to post-event intelligence gathered which falls under investigation.

While this is a sound proposition but it does not mean that intelligence work should be an excuse for non accountability and non transparency. If Indian Government wishes to make the functioning of Intelligence Agencies “secret” there must a “Mechanism” to ensure that “Parliamentary Oversight” of these agencies does exists, opines Dalal. Presently there is no Parliamentary Oversight of these Agencies, informs Dalal.

In these circumstances, the decision of Indian Government to exempt CBI and Natgrid is not based upon “National Interest” and “National Security” but upon “Extraneous Considerations” and it deserves to be set aside by our Constitutional Courts, suggests Dalal. Let us see how things develop in this regard in India.