The Indian Consulate in Sydney has refused to make public records related to alleged fake passport issued to Chhota Rajan which enabled his stay in Australia, citing four exemption clauses from the RTI Act without giving any reason to substantiate them.
Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative had sought from the Indian High Commission in Australia details of the passport issued to Rajan on the basis of forged identity.
The application was forwarded to the mission in Sydney where the travel document was issued to Rajan.
The Mission refused to divulge the details citing Sections 8(1)(a), (e), (g) and (h) of the RTI Act.
“… The First Appellate Authority has sent the email that the CPIO rejected my RTI application under Sections 8A, 8E, 8G and 8H. There is no attachment or email form the CPIO that was supposedly sent to me. To which email address, I am not sure,” Nayak claimed.
Section 8(1)(a) alone covers seven grounds to deny information — sovereignty and integrity, defence, strategic, scientific, economic interests and foreign relations of the state and incitement to commission of crimes. Section 8(1)(e) relates to fiduciary relationship, 8(1)(g) exempts information from disclosure which may endanger the life and safety of any person and 8(1)(h) the disclosure impede the investigation, prosecution process or arrest of the offenders.
Several high courts have given orders that mere invoking exemptions is not enough and the public authority must give sufficient reasons to justify denial of information.
“This reply from the Sydney Consulate amounts to shielding officers who may have issued the passport without due diligence or perhaps even through corrupt means. The CBI has already registered an FIR under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against unnamed officials in this case. So there is a great amount of public interest in making the identity of these officials public instead of protecting them,” Nayak alleged.