SIT on black money comes un­der RTI Act am­bit: CIC

In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner Bi­mal Julka said ev­ery ac­tion of the Govern­ment must be ac­tu­ated in pub­lic in­ter­est and for larger pub­lic good

The Hitavada - - NATION -

THE Supreme Court ap­pointed Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team on black money is an­swer­able un­der the RTI Act, the Cen­tral In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion has held. Bring­ing SIT un­der the RTI Act, In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner Bi­mal Julka said ev­ery ac­tion of the Govern­ment must be ac­tu­ated in pub­lic in­ter­est and for larger pub­lic good.

The SIT was set up on the or­ders of the Supreme Court in 2014 through a Govern­ment no­ti­fi­ca­tion to sug­gest meth­ods to curb black money in the econ­omy.

The SIT, which is headed by for­mer Supreme Court judge MB Shah, is re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­gat­ing cases of black money stashed abroad through co­or­di­na­tion of var­i­ous mem­bers from the Re­serve Bank of In­dia (RBI), the In­tel­li­gence Bu­reau (IB), the En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED), the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI), the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit, the Re­search and Anal­y­sis Wing (RAW) and DRI. The case per­tained to RTI query sent by ac­tivist Venkatesh Nayak to Fi­nance Min­istry de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion on seven-points in­clud­ing pho­to­copy of let­ter re­port­edly writ­ten by Herve Fal­cini, for­mer em­ployee of the Geneva Branch of HSBC Bank to the Chair­man, Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT).

The Min­istry and In­come Tax depart­ment de­nied part of in­for­ma­tion cit­ing ex­emp­tion clauses of the RTI Act per­tain­ing to fidu­ciary ca­pac­ity and on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Nayak ap­proached the Com­mis­sion plead­ing to is­sue ap­pro­pri­ate or­ders recog­nis­ing the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT ) on Black Money as a “Pub­lic Author­ity” within the terms of Sec­tion 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.

Dur­ing the hear­ing the rev­enue depart­ment of­fi­cial said that all RTI ap­pli­ca­tions per­tain­ing to the SIT were dealt with by their sec­tion by col­lat­ing in­puts from de­part­ments/di­vi­sions con­cerned. On a query by the Com­mis­sion, whether the RTI ap­pli­ca­tions per­tain­ing to the SIT were re­sponded to or not, the of­fi­cial replied in the af­fir­ma­tive but sub­mit­ted that no des­ig­nated cen­tral pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer (to re­spond RTI ap­pli­ca­tions) or First ap­pel­late author­ity was ap­pointed by the SIT.

“When a Pub­lic Author­ity is largely funded by the Govt and per­forms the duty of bring­ing back un­ac­counted money un­law­fully kept in bank ac­counts abroad, it was es­sen­tially per­form­ing a Pub­lic Duty and thus ev­ery cit­i­zen has ev­ery right to know about cer­tain in­for­ma­tion within the frame­work of the RTI Act, 2005,” he said. It said that SIT was con­sti­tuted by a cen­tral Govern­ment no­ti­fi­ca­tion thus there is “no scope of am­bi­gu­ity” in con­sid­er­ing the SIT as a “body” as en­vis­aged within the def­i­ni­tion of “Pub­lic Author­ity” un­der the RTI Act. “Con­sid­er­ing the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005it would be just and ap­pro­pri­ate to de­clare the SIT that it was per­form­ing a pi­ous pub­lic duty be­stowed upon it by the SCof bring­ing back the money,” he said.

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