Tuesday, February 21, 2017

As CIC & Lokayukta lock horns, case reaches HC

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Tuesday, February 21, 2017.
With the Lokayukta police and the Karnataka State Information Commission (KSIC) at loggerheads over sharing information on the quasi-judicial anti-corruption watchdog Lokayukta’s functioning, their tussle over Right To Information (RTI) has now reached a decisive level at the doorsteps of the high court.
In the past one-and-a-half years, since the issue is on, the Lokayukta police’s city wing had initially denied information. Then as the matter had reached KSIC in December, it (the police wing) had ruled against ordering its public information officer providing information.
However, with the Lokayukta police challenging the KSIC order by moving the high court in January, and the court issuing an interim stay on the KSIC order, the matter is now in the high court.
The case so far
The issue dates back to October 2015, when activist S Bhaskaran had sought information under RTI act in his four applications first, seeking information on visitor’s book at the Lokayukta headquarters for the period between Nov 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013; second, seeking details of all the cases handled and investigated by one of the police wing inspectors, HP Puttaswamy during his stint there; the third application pertained to information on the vehicle log book of Puttaswamy; and fourth, the details of complaints against government servants/employees with the city police wing officials between Nov 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013.
The Lokayukta police wing, which had cited a clause on the information endangering the life of an individual (its investigators), had initially not provided the information. It had then reached the Lokayukta registrar as he is the first appellate authority.
He had ordered providing information pertaining to three applications, while barring revelation about the vehicle log book. But still the information was not provided.
Then, the matter had reached the KSIC. The KSIC had recently ruled that the information should be provided in all the four applications. It had also set a deadline of January 4, 2017.
Making scathing remarks, the KSIC had ruled that there was nothing personal or endangering in sharing information. It had also sarcastically stated that teaching would be a better option for the Lokayukta police wing personnel if their lives were at risk by providing information.
Lokayukta police not exempted: Activist
But the matter on whether the Lokayukta police should share information or not, appears not to be settled soon.
It has now reached the high court. The Lokayukta police, challenging the KSIC order pertaining to the three applications, has moved the high court after the KSIC order. On February 8, the high court issued summons to the respondents, including the applicant in case, Bhaskaran, to present their side of arguments within 10 days.
“We will pursue the case and present our stand as Lokayukta police is neither exempted from sharing information under the RTI act like some other central agencies like the Intelligence bureau, Research & Analysis Wing of cabinet secretariat, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, Border Security.
Force, National Security Guards nor is the information I have sought, personal. I will pursue the case as whatever the outcome be it upholding the KSIC decision or Lokayukta police decision it will have a long-lasting bearing on the functioning of the RTI act in the state and the transparency,” Bhaskaran told Bangalore Mirror.
If the court rules against the KSIC, then the Lokayukta police would stand vindicated that sharing information would endanger lives of its investigating officials. If the court upholds the KSIC decision, then it may result in bringing forth several vital information pertaining to the police wing’s functioning, a former Lokayukta official said, adding that it was a battle between KSIC and the Lokayukta on the RTI issue that would be worth watching closely.