Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Mr Divya Prakash Sinha, Information Commissioner directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to disclose and share information relating to corruption or human rights violation irrespective of the fact the information pertains to the intelligence or security organizations, its own officers or matters being investigated by the organization.

In a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Appellant, details regarding irregularities committed in allotting LPG distributorship by the officers of the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Jaipur and in particular against, Ranjeet Singh, were sought. However, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) refused to provide any information citing Section 24 (1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 which states that the intelligence and security organizations are exempted from the Act, but if the issue pertains to corruption or human rights violation, the same shall not be exempted from the exclusion clause, and has to be disclosed under the RTI Act.

During the proceedings, learned counsel for the Respondent, R.S. Shekhawat, Deputy SP and Rep. of CPIO, Central Bureau of Investigation, Jaipur further referred to written statements of the CPIO sent to the Commission wherein it had been submitted that CPIO, CBI is obliged to provide information relating to an allegation of corruption against its own employees and not regarding cases of corruption being investigated by the CBI.

The Commission rejected the contention made by the Respondents and referred to the Delhi High Court judgment of CPIO, Intelligence Bureau v. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 10084, wherein it was held that the term “any information” in the proviso to Section 24 (1) includes all kinds of information. It further stated that “The proviso becomes applicable if the information pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation. The proviso is not qualified and conditional on the information being related to the exempt intelligence and security organizations. If the information sought, furnished by the exempt intelligence and security organizations, pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause.” The High Court concluded that “the only conclusion that can be drawn is that, if the information sought pertains to allegation of corruption and human right violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause, irrespective of the fact that the information pertains to the exempt intelligence and security organizations or not or pertains to an Officer of the Intelligence Bureau or not.”

In view of the above, the Commission disposed this appeal stating that the aforesaid judgment shall be applicable in the instant case, and also directed the Director of CBI to sensitize its CPIOs on Section 24 of RTI Act by way of appropriate workshops. [Radha Mohan Sharma v. CPIO, Central Bureau of Investigation, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 298, decided on 08-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: In a case before the Court, the appellant had appealed against the judgment of the Sessions Court which sentenced them under Sections 302/201/34 of the Penal Code (IPC) to imprisonment for life. The duly proved facts of the case were that the accused persons had murdered the deceased/victims by suspecting them to be ‘Dainees’ (witches).

On adhering to the facts of the case, the Court took note of the fact that inhuman and barbaric practice of witch hunting was still prevalent in parts of Assam and North-eastern State. The Division Bench comprising of Ujjal Bhuyan and Paran Kumar Phukan, JJ. observed that branding of a man or a woman as a witch and then resorting to witch hunting is the most dehumanizing act and is one of the worst forms of human rights violations.

The Bench further highlighted that the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, is awaiting assent of the President of India and needs to be passed soon. The Court said that witch-hunting is a socio-legal problem and needs to be curbed soon. The Court noted that in the North-Eastern states, some people, mostly elderly women, are branded as witches and thereafter they are subjected to severe abuse in the name of getting rid of the evil supposed to be in them.

Terming it a social menace, the Bench observed: “Witch hunting as a phenomenon is not only confined to the State of Assam; it has affected large parts of the country. It is rooted in flawed quasi-religious beliefs, antiquated socio-cultural traditions blended with extreme superstitions practices.”

Terming the act as one of the worst forms of human rights violations, the Court confirmed the conviction of two accused and acquitted one giving him the benefit of doubt. [Bhim Turi v. State of Assam,  2017 SCC OnLine Gau 813, decided on 27.10.2017]