RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: CBI can’t claim exemption from providing info on Ambanis

CBI claimed exemption without explaining how disclosing the information on why the agency decided not to prosecute Mukesh and Anil Ambani in the Reliance Infocomm case would affect the court case. The claim was denied by the CIC. This is the eighth in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Public Information Officer (PIO), who is denying information under Section 8(1)(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, must show satisfactory reasons as to why disclosure of such information would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said the PIO has not been able justify how disclosing the information would impede the process of prosecution of offenders.       
“In the instant case, the PIO has relied on Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act and argued that disclosing such information would provide clues to other persons accused in the relevant case by which they would be able to argue why they should also not be charged and this would impede the prosecution of offenders. The argument raised by the PIO to justify the denial of information on the basis of Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act appears to be nothing more than a mere apprehension on her part,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order issued on 26 May 2011.
Delhi-based PC Srivastava has sought information about why Mukesh Ambani, who was chairman of Reliance Infocomm, at the time when the offence was committed, has not been named in the CBI charge-sheet as an accused. The PIO and Superintendent of Police, Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the CBI denied the information. The PIO stated, “As the information sought in the case would impede the process of prosecution of offenders, the same is denied under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act.”
Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Srivastava, then approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA) seeking information about why the owners (at that time) Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani were protected from prosecution charges. The FAA also rejected the petition saying, “...the case was finalised after obtaining legal opinion and evaluation of evidence. The information sought was confidential and cannot be disclosed as it would impede the process of prosecution. Hence, rejected under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act.”
Dissatisfied with the order of the FAA, Mr Srivastava, then filed second appeal in the CIC. During the hearing, the PIO stated that the case pertained to Reliance Infocomm (RIL) and that the CBI was prosecuting certain directors of the company under Section 120 B of the IPC read with Sections 20/20(A)/21/25(C)/27 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Sections 65/66/85 of the IT Act, 2000 and other substantive offences. The PIO said that the investigation was over and a charge-sheet had been filed and prosecution was underway in CC No 2938/10 in the Court of ACMM, Chennai.
When asked by Mr Gandhi whether reasons for not prosecuting Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani were available on record, the PIO stated that the CBI had decided to prosecute certain directors and the reasons for not prosecuting both the Ambani brothers were on record. “However, disclosing such information would provide clues to other persons accused in the said case by which they would be able to argue why they should also not be charged,” the PIO said.
The Commission said as per Section 19(5) of the RTI Act, in any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the PIO who denied the request. And while denying a request for information under the RTI Act, the PIO must have cogent reasons for doing so which must necessarily come within the purview of Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act.  
Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act provides as follows: 
“8. Exemption from disclosure of information.- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,
(h) information, which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;”
Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act exempts disclosure of information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. “Merely because the process of investigation or prosecution of offenders is continuing, the bar stipulated under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act is not attracted; it must be clearly established by the PIO that disclosure of the information would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders,” the Commission said.
Mr Gandhi in his order said, “...the PIO has failed to discharge the burden placed upon her under Section 19(5) of the RTI Act to prove that the denial of information under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act was justified. Moreover, this Commission is unable to understand how lack of evidence against a person can be used by another person against whom evidence has in fact been found leading to filing of charge sheet against the latter.”
The Commission ordered the PIO to provide information to Mr Srivastava before 20 June 2011.
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000309/SG/12557
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000309/SG
Appellant                                                             : PC Srivastava,
                                                                                       New Delhi
Respondent                                                      : PIO & Superintendent of Police, 
                                                                                       Economic Offences Wing,
                                                                                       Central Bureau of Investigation, 
                                                                                       III Floor, A- Wing, Rajaji Bhawan, 
                                                                                       Besant Nagar, Chennai- 600090
Updates on the case:
In November 2012, the Delhi High Court asked the CBI to respond to a plea for cross examination of the minister for personnel and training in a case related to alleged masking of international calls as local ones by erstwhile Reliance Infocomm for two years from 2000. According to a PTI report, Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notice to the probe agency and sought its reply by 29 April 2013 on an application filed by PC Srivastava.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Union of India challenging the CIC's 26 May 2011 order.
The CBI had taken up the probe in 2006, a year after Reliance Industries was divided between the feuding siblings—Mukesh and Anil. Reliance Infocomm went to Anil and was rechristened Reliance Communications.
In July 2010, the CBI had filed a charge-sheet before a Chennai court against the Reliance Infocomm officials Manoj Modi, Akhil Gupta, Shankar Adawal, Pankaj Powar, KR Raju and Bhagwan Das Khurana in the case.
After the charge-sheet, Mr Srivastava had sought to know from the CBI the reasons for not making Ambani brothers as accused in the case relating to the alleged manipulation and tampering of calling lines and thereby passing off international calls as local ones and thus causing loss to the government and its PSUs, BSNL and MTNL, worth crores of rupees. 




Ashok Das

4 years ago

It appears after reading the fine print in your report that the decision of Shri Shailesh Gandhi has been challenged in the Courts and the matter may be pending. Kindly rectify this understanding is incorrect. If it is really pending, isn't it prudent to wait a bit before placing it before the public as a fully accepted judgement? Also, the view of Shri Shailesh Gandhi is often not in synch with that of other CICs is now well known. Therefore while it maybe used and cited as one side of an argument by us when needed, it is not necessary that it is universally accepted. We are quite confused with different CICs giving different verdicts on similar issues. Please understand the helpless position of sincere PIOs in some such cases. Maybe MoneyLife would do us a service by bringing together such contradictions so that the CICs themselves come to some common ground. Thank you.

Improved growth prospects for India in 2013: Moody's

According to the ratings agency, withdrawal of an obstinate coalition partner and a flurry of pro-business reforms designed to lift Indian economy from its funk

New Delhi: Withdrawal of support to government by an 'obstinate coalition partner' and flurry of reforms have improved India's growth prospects in 2013, said global rating agency Moody's, reports PTI.


"...(growth prospects have improved) with a new finance minister, the withdrawal of an obstinate coalition partner and a flurry of pro-business reforms designed to lift the economy from its funk...These moves are working," Moody's said in a report.


The government has been able to push through economic reforms, especially allowing foreign investment in multi-brand retail, after withdrawal of support by Trinamool Congress.


The government had also expressed its commitment to raise FDI cap in the insurance sector. This would require approval of Parliament.


Noting that "policy missteps and political paralysis" crushed business confidence and investment in 2012, the Moody's report said, "India should ...enjoy a better 2013, though for different reasons."


The report said Asia's economies have weathered the global downturn and will enter 2013 in comparatively good shape. Risk levels appear manageable, domestic policy settings remain highly accommodative, and the global outlook has begun to stabilise.


P Chidambaram took over the finance portfolio in August when the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee became the Presidential candidate.


Mukherjee was later elected as President.


The rating agency further said that near-term risks around India's fiscal and external deficits have receded.


"Business groups are more upbeat; this will translate into better investment and GDP growth, but not until well into 2013. The moves help to lock in our longer-term outlook," the it said.


Was majority in parliament on FDI in retail funded by Wal-Mart asks CPI(M)

Referring to the vote in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the issue of FDI in retail, CPI-M leader Yechury said it has to be found whether Wal-Mart financed this majority too

New Delhi: Accusing Congress of "manufacturing majority" in Indian Parliament on teh issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Tuesday asked whether this was funded by American retail giant Wal-Mart, reports PTI.
"An independent and time-bound inquiry is necessary. It is necessary to find out whether the amount (reportedly spent by Walmart in lobbying) was spent on bribes too," senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
Observing that the US media reports had said that the company had spent $25 million on lobbying with US lawmakers in 2012, he said "it has to be found whether Wal-Mart financed this majority (in Parliament) too," he said, referring to the vote in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the issue of FDI in retail.
In this context, he also referred to the Enron power project case in Maharashtra saying the now-bankrupt US energy firm had "spent money to 'educate' Indian officials about the company." 
Yechury said Walmart considered India a "very big market" as its own estimations valued the retail market here to be worth $500 billion which is set to grow to $1 trillion by 2020.
Walmart, he said, was looking at India at a time when US and Europe had been hit by the global recession and Britain was threatening to walk out of the European Union.
"This is the simple truth" about Walmart's interests in India and the company was "not interested in investing to improve infrastructure but solely to reap profits," he said.
The US retail chain has been "doing such activity not only in India but in a large number of other countries also, most of them developing ones. Their activities in Mexico for eight years have now come to light," the Marxist leader said, adding "our stand has been vindicated".
To questions on government agreeing to a probe, he said "we are open to a judicial inquiry, either by a sitting or a retired judge, or one under the Inquiry Act. CBI can be used (by the probe panel) to investigate." 
On Reserve Bank of India's amendments to Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) which would give legal effect to FDI in retail, Yechury said the amendments have not have been tabled in Rajya Sabha so far, though they have been placed in Lok Sabha.
"By not tabling it in the Upper House, the government is violating the equality of the two Houses provided in our Constitution. The government is trying to throw a subterfuge as it knows that, most likely, it will lose in Rajya Sabha", he said.
Observing that the amendments would "have to be laid in both Houses within 30 days", he said the last day is 13th December. "If they don't do it by then, the judicial review process, which is already on in the Supreme Court, will take over. Not tabling them will be serious subversion of our parliamentary structure."




4 years ago

Manmohan Singh led Government is the most corrupt since independence. He lost in a parliament election but later entered the temple of worlds largest democracy through the back door. But still Manmohan is regarded as an honest and clean man. All crony capitalists extols the virtues of this man and he unabashedly clinging to his chair.

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)