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Bhubaneswar, June 21 (IANS) The Orissa High Court on Monday asked the Naveen Patnaik-led government to bring its vigilance department under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act. The court has asked the government to issue a notification within four weeks on this count.
The vigilance department was under the purview of the RTI Act when it came into force. However, on August 11, 2016, the state information and public relations department had issued a notification to keep the entire vigilance wing outside the purview of the Act.
Challenging this move of the government, three petitions were filed in the HC in 2016. Hearing the case, a high court bench comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Judge RK Pattanaik said, “The impugned notification in so far as it seeks to exempt the The entire vigilance department of the government from the view of the RTI Act would run counter to the first proviso to Section 24 (4) of the RTI Act.”
In its submissions to the court, the state government has said that the activities of the vigilance department are similar to that of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which has been exempted from the purview of the RTI Act since 2011.
Likewise, the states of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim have issued notifications exempting their respective vigilance departments from the purview of the RTI Act, the government urged.
If the vigilance department is not to be exempted from the purview of RTI Act then all kinds of information regarding the functioning of the vigilance department would become available to the public and that would be against the interests of security, it said.
However, the court said that the vigilance department cannot refuse to divulge information pertaining to corruption and human rights violations, which is expressly not protected from disclosure by virtue of the first proviso to Section 24 (4) of the Act.
Also, information that does not touch upon any of the sensitive and confidential activities undertaken by the vigilance department cannot be withheld, it said.
Further, the bench said that the government cannot deny information pertaining to the vigilance department involving of corruption and human rights violations, and other information that does not touch upon any of the sensitive and confidential activities undertaken by the vigilance department.