CBI sought part RTI exemption, Govt gave it full


Almost three years after the controversial decision to exempt the CBI from the purview of the Right To Information Act, it has come to light that the Solicitor-General and the investigating agency itself wanted only partial immunity from the transparency law, but got total exemption from the UPA government.

The government felt that exempting the premier investigating agency only partially would lead to other bodies asking for the same, and this push for full exemption was strongly backed by the Prime Minister's Office, according to file notings and official records accessed by The Indian Express.

The documents show that the CBI hesitatingly began its campaign to step out of the transparency regime in July 2010 with the Central Vigilance Commission recommending that only the agency's special unit — which deals with collection of intelligence — be exempted from the RTI Act just as in the case of other intelligence agencies.

In its follow-up request filed with the Department of Personnel and Training on February 14, 2011, the agency mentioned that departments related to administration, personnel, accounts/finance, budget and training remain open to disclosures under the RTI Act.

This partial exemption formula was backed by the then Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium. "I am, however, not convinced that all aspects of the organisation of the CBI must be given exemption," he wrote in his 23-page opinion, adding that a "qualification" be added so that the above-mentioned five departments are retained under the RTI Act.

However, the DoPT said this was not feasible and its joint secretary Rajeev Kapoor backed the CBI's original proposal of keeping only its intelligence gathering Special Unit out of the RTI Act.

Subsequently though, even this proposal fell out of favour. A DoPT note of April 2011 signed by its Secretary Alka Sirohi said that "partial exemption may not serve the purpose…according to the CBI they are in favour of full exemption".

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