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Atul Patankar

HC upholds exclusion of vigilance commission

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Atul Patankar

As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 31 March 2008

 

CHENNAi: The Madras high court has upheld the state government's order exempting the state vigilance commission and the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC) from the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

 

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice H L Gokhale and Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla, dismissed a writ petition from P Pugazhendi, an advocate, seeking the quashing of an order dated August 26, 2008. by which the government invoked its powers under Sec 24(4) of the RTI to declare that the law shall not apply to the state vigilance commission and DVAC.

 

Several activists working for the right to information had questioned the government's move when the order was passed, wondering what was the need for the government to remove these organisations dealing with corruption among public servants to be exempted from the RTI.

 

The petitioner had raised several grounds to assail the exemption granted to the vigilance bodies from the law's purview. He had pointed out that the CBI had not been kept out of the RTI even though it was also dealing with corruption cases pertaining to public servants under the Central government. He also argued that the state government's exercise of its power to exempt the DVAC amounted to destroying the ideal of transparency in public administration.

 

However, the bench rejected these arguments. Referring to the point about the CBI, the court said the sub-sections of the Act concerning the central and state governments' power to exempt organisations involved in intelligence and security were separate provisions, and there was no need for one to be mixed up with the other.

 

On the point about erosion of transparency, the bench noted that the preamble to the legislation permitted "preservation of confidentiality" about sensitive information.

 

The bench noted that the order had itself mentioned that these organisations primarily dealt with investigation into alleged corrupt activities of public servants. "It is stated that confidentiality and secrecy in certain cases are required to be maintained right from initial state up to the filing of chargesheet (in cases that lead to criminal proceedings) and up to the final order in disciplinary proceedings.

 

The bench agreed with the government's contention that giving information relating to such proceedings would "lead to unnecessary embarrassment and definitely hamper due process".

 

"In our view, the state has given sufficient reasons as to why it was exercising powers under Sec 24(4)," the bench said, and dismissed the petition.

Source: HC upholds exclusion of vigilance commission - Chennai - Cities - The Times of India

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