SIT on black money answerable under the RTI Act: CIC

RSTV Bureau

The Central Information Commission, apex body to adjudicate on the matters arising out of the Right To Information Act, has ruled that Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money is answerable under the RTI Act.

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 by the government on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2014 to suggest methods to curb black money in the economy.

The team, 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 ruling 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).

File photo of siezed currency notes.

File photo of siezed currency notes.

According to the petitioner, the Ministry and Income Tax department denied part of information citing exemption clauses of the RTI Act pertaining to fiduciary capacity and ongoing investigation. They also said that some part of the information may be with the member secretary, SIT.

Petitioner Nayak then 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.

The petition argued that since 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.

(With inputs from PTI)