In its nine-page affidavit submitted before the apex court, the CBI chief admitted making changes in the 'coalgate' draft report on suggestions from Ashwani Kumar and the AG, but stated that it has neither altered the report nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday admitted before the Supreme Court that it made certain changes in the coalgate draft report as per suggestions given by Ashwani Kumar, the union law minister and GE Vahanvati, the Attorney General (AG) as well as from officials from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and coal ministry.
The submission made by CBI director Ranjit Sinha contradicts stand taken by the law minister and AG, who had refuted the allegation that they had suggested changes in the draft report.
In its nine-page affidavit, the CBI chief gave details of the meetings between the officials of the agency, the law minister, AG, then additional solicitor general Harin Raval and officials of PMO and Coal Ministry.
The affidavit said the changes made in the draft report on the suggestion of the law minister and Vanahvati have 'neither altered the report nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner'. "The central theme of the status report had not changed post meetings. There were no deletions of any evidence against any suspect or accused nor were any let off," the affidavit says.
Sinha also said that "no names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and also that no suspect or accused was let off in the process."
Extending unconditional apology for any inadvertent omission or commission, Sinha said there is nothing in the CBI manual to guide whether status reports in an on-going investigation in a sub-judice matter are to be shared with others.
Sinha also said there are no minutes of meetings, which took place with law minister and officials of PMO and coal ministry and details of his affidavit "are based on best recollection of my memory and of my officers".
The affidavit from CBI also said that there was no intention to suppress from the Supreme Court the fact that the draft report was shared with political executive and government officials.
The deemed PIO transferred the RTI application to other branch despite possessing the information in his department, which the CIC termed as 'wilful denial'. This is the 85th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the deemed Public Information Officer (PIO) and assistant director of education (ADE) for vigilance at Directorate of Education from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to provide required information and also issued a show cause notice for the delay.
While giving this judgement on 19 January 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “It is impossible to imagine how information about a complaint of alleged bribery against a department official could have been available at any place except the Vigilance department. The ADE (Vigilance) Hari Om Gupta has acted wilfully in denying information and wilfully obfuscating the issue in the RTI application.”
New Delhi resident Taj Mohammad, on 18 June 2008, sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the PIO of Directorate of Education in the GNCTD.
He sought a copy of comments of ADE (Estate) with copy of the report of inquiry officer and final action taken, report on the complaint filed with Director of Education vide diary no10343 R&I Branch, on 31 March 2008 from the PIO.
The PIO forwarded the RTI application to the Vigilance Branch vide office letter no DE/RTI/ID no2768/2008/1976 on 23 June 2008. Further the PIO stated, "As per the information received from Act branch, the requisite information has been transferred to the Deputy Director of Education (Central) vide office letter No DE/RTI/ID No2768/2008/9212-13 dated 22 July 2008 and they being the independent PIO will supply the information directly."
Since Taj Mohammad did not receive any information from the PIO, he on 23 July 2008 filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA), in his order stated that the information as available has been furnished by the PIO, which was adequate and satisfactory.
While disposing the first appeal, the FAA said, "Since the information sought by the appellant lies with the district Central, the appellant is advised to approach the concerned FAA i.e. Regional Director of Education (Central)/ FAA in case of non-receipt of information from Deputy Director of Education (Central)/ PIO."
Not satisfied with the reply, Taj Mohammad then filed his second appeal before the CIC. During the hearing, the Commission noted that the appellant (Taj Mohammad) had filed a complaint on 31 March 2008 against VC Pachouri, ADE (Estate) in which he alleged that a bribe of Rs50,000 was demanded from him and by his RTI application he was seeking action taken on his complaint.
The PIO, on 23 June 2008 had sought the assistance of Hari Om Gupta, ADE (Vigilance) under Section 5 (4). A reminder was sent on 14 July 2008. The ADE (Vigilance) forwarded the PIO's 23rd June letter to ACT Branch stating that the complainant is a teacher in an aided school. The ACT branch in turn returned the letter to RTI cell on 15 July 2008 stating that this pertains to District Centre.
RTI cell transferred the application to PIO/DDE district centre. DDE centre further transferred this on 7 August 2008 to Principal, Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi which could have had no information about the information sought.
Taj Mohammad, then showed a letter dated 14 January 2009 from PIO of HQ which stated that the information would be available with ADE (Vigilance), who was also asked to be present before the Commission.
The PIO presented a letter dated 24 October 2008 by Hari Om Gupta purportedly explaining his role in which there was no explanation of why he first did nothing from 23 June 2008 to 7 July 2008 and subsequently contended that DDE Central would have this information.
Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said, "It is impossible to imagine how information about a complaint of alleged bribery against a department official could have been available at any place except the Vigilance department. It appears the First Appellate authority has not done his job with diligence."
"It appears from the facts presented that the ADE (Vigilance) Hari Om Gupta has acted wilfully in denying information and wilfully obfuscating the issue in the RTI application. The Principal of the School could have no role to play in whether any action had been taken by the department on allegation of bribery," the CIC said in its order.
While allowing the appeal, the Commission directed the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta to give the information sought by the appellant before 5 February 2009.
Mr Gandhi also said, from the facts it was apparent that the deemed PIO was guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per the requirement of the RTI Act. It also appears that there was wilful attempt to deny the information by the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta, he said.
The Commission, then issued a show cause notice to the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta. The deemed PIO was also asked to give a written submission showing cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act. The Commission also stated that it was also likely to consider disciplinary action against Hari Om Gupta.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2008/00024/SG/1148
Appeal No. CIC/ SG/A/2008/00024
Appellant : Taj Mohammad
Respondent 1. : Public Information Officer (CPIO)
Directorate of Education
Govt. of NCT Delhi
The apex court also directed authorities to endeavour to withdraw criminal cases against those protesting against the nuclear power plant’s commissioning
The Supreme Court on Monday while giving a green signal to Tamil Nadu-based Kudankulam nuclear power plant dismissed a plea against commissioning of the nuke power project.
"Kudankulam nuclear plant is safe and secure and it is necessary for larger public interest and economic growth of the country. Nuclear power plants are needed in the country for the present and future generations," the apex court said.
A bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, which had reserved the verdict following marathon arguments in the last three months, also issued 15 guidelines on commissioning, safety, security and the environmental issues related with the nuke power plant.
Adding to this, the Supreme Court has directed the authorities to endeavour to withdraw criminal cases against those protesting against the plant’s commissioning.
Anti-nuclear activists filed a batch of petitions saying that safety measures recommended for the plant by an expert body have not been put in place.
They also raised various questions pertaining to the disposal of nuclear waste, the plant’s impact on the environment and the safety of people living nearby, besides other issues linked to the controversial plant.
The Centre, Tamil Nadu government and Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCL), which operates the plant, had refuted all the allegations on safety and security aspects.
They had submitted that the plant is completely safe and can withstand any kind of natural disaster and external terrorist attack.
The bench, on the first date of hearing on 13 September 2012, had refused to stay the loading of fuel for the plant but had agreed to examine the risk associated with the project, saying the safety of people in its vicinity is its key concern.