Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writ Filed in High Court in the RTI matter related with Vigilance Department

A writ has been filed today by Dr Nutan Thakur, Convener of the National RTI Forum in the Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench. Sri Ashok Pande is the counsel for the petitioner. The writ is against the Notification No 2339/39-4-2010- 21/05, dated September 22, 2010 issued by Principal Secretary, Vigilance, Uttar Pradesh through which the Vigilance Department and Uttar Pradesh Vigilance Establishment have been brought out of the purview of the Right to Information Act 2005. This notification has been passed by the UP government by powers given under section 24(4) of the RTI Act. It said that providing information under RTI is having adverse effect in the “process of investigation and prosecution of offenders” and hence it is being stopped.

The interim relief sought is to direct the respondent not to give effect to this Notification till the disposal of the petition while the main relief sought is to quash this Notification.

The main plea taken by Nutan Thakur is that the twin objective of the passing of the RTI Act were to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority and this notification works exactly in opposition to these twin objectives. It also talks of section 8 (1) (h) of the Act which already excludes the information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders from the application of the provisions of RTI. Thus the petition says that with this provision already in effect, there was no need to bring this notification where other than the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders, all other information related with the Vigilance Department and Vigilance Establishment have been brought out of the purview of the RTI Act. The petition says that though section 24(4) of the Act gives power to the State governments to order exemption of certain organizations from the application of this Act but it also clearly mentions that this shall not apply for cases related with allegations of corruption and human rights violations.

The petition provides a comparative status of the UP Vigilance department vis-a-vis the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which have the same function at the Central government level as Vigilance department has in the State. The petition says that the CVC gives all such Information like action on complaints, penal action, delays in conduct of disciplinary proceedings , sanction for prosecution pending over four months etc. where the list of the officers on whom criminal charges related with corruption are leveled along with actions being taken and the overall status in investigation and prosecution are being openly declared. Similarly the CBI provides information of details of cases pending for Sanction of Prosecution (under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988) with Organisations/ Departments. Again neither the CVC nor CBI is kept out of the purview of the Act. The petition also says that hiding all such information related with corruption of officers will clearly aid and assist such officers and will remove any kind of societal and public pressure that a person has as regards a person’s misdeeds becoming public in nature. The petition specifically talks of Writ Petition No (M/B) 5074 of 2004 Nirdesh Kumar Dixit (P.I.L) vs State Of U.P. thru Principal Secretary (Vigilance) & 14 Others, where Amitava Lala, J and Ritu Raj Awasthi, J of the Allahabad High Court have in their order dated 12/05/2010 asked the State of UP to justify the posting of officers found guilty in a particular Vigilance enquiry on important posts and where incidentally one of the officers is Kunwar Fateh Bahadur, presently working as the Principal Secretary Vigilance Departments.

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