Probes against ministers excluded from RTI purview

Vigilance and Anti-corruption BureauThiruvananthapuram: The government has issued a notification exempting the top secret section of the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau dealing with enquires against Chief Minister, ministers, former ministers and elected representatives of people and all India service officers from the purview of the Right to Information Act.

Details of surprise checks against present and former ministers, all India service officers, members of the Assembly and members of Parliament and correspondence by Vigilance Bureau with Lok Ayukta, Lok Pal, CBI and Central Vigilance Commission are also sought to be protected from disclosure.

The notification dated January 27, 2016 was issued after the Bureau received RTI queries about complaints against ministers.

Just a week before the issue of the notification, the Bureau redistributed work of the top secret section (T) through an office order to include the following:

“T1 - Maintenance of ACRs in respect of Ministerial/ Executive and Legal Staff, Custody of personal files, Maintaining files of secret nature and all relevant matters, all Confidential Verifications and Vigilance Enquiries /Quick verifications of sensitive nature. All CV/VE/QV initiated against All India Service Officers, Hon'ble Chief Minister, Hon'ble former Chief Ministers, Ministers, former Ministers, MLAs, MPs,

T2 - Weekly diaries of the Officers, Collection of intelligence and its processing, matters relating to Source Reports. Processing of all complaints received through the dedicated telephone lines. Works related to all Surprise Checks inclusive that of All India Service Officers, Hon'ble Chief Minister, Hon'ble former Chief Ministers, Ministers, former Ministers, MLAs, MPs.  All correspondence made by VACB with Hon'ble Lok Ayukta, Hon'ble Lok Pal, CBI and CVC in connection with any enquiry and investigation.  All petitions which are already under enquiry/investigation by Hon'ble Lok Ayukta,, Hon'ble Lok Pal, CBI, CVC etc.”

The notification has been issued invoking provisions of the Right to Information Act (Sub-section 4 of Section 24) that provides for exemption of intelligence and security organisations from the purview of the Act through notification.

RTI activists are questioning the notification observing that the Bureau is not an intelligence or security organisation. Besides, only a branch or the organisation is sought to be exempted. This is not something envisaged in the Act. Now, the Bureau can deny documents regarding any part of its work by just issuing an office order bringing that under the ‘T’ Branch.