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19774Two Minor Amendments to the RTI Act and DoPT's OM about single window system for seeking sanction for prosecution of Group A Officers

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  • Venkatesh Nayak
    Aug 3 2:45 AM
    Dear all,
    The Department of Personnel (DoPT) has quietly made two minor changes in the 2nd Schedule of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Entries 7 and 8 in the 2nd Schedule read as 'Aviation Research Centre' (ARC) and 'Special Frontier Force' (SFF) until recently. The amendment clarifies their link to their parent organisation by adding the phrase "of the Cabinet Secretariat" against these names. No other change has been incorporated in the RTI Act. Readers will remember that organisations notified under Section 24 read with the Schedule 2 of the RTI Act do not have an obligation to disclose information other than those pertaining to allegations of corruption or allegations of human rights violation.

    Interestingly, when the RTI Act was gazetted it had some typos. One of them related to Entry 8 which read 'Special Prontier Force'. Now with the latest amendment this typo has been corrected. There is at least one more typo in the RTI Act as notified in the Gazette. I invite readers to spot it.

    The ARC and the SFF do not have dedicated websites. Except for a mention about their inclusion in the list of notified organisations under Schedule 2 of the RTI Act in reply to a query in the Lok Sabha in 2005, no other question has been asked about these organisations in Parliament during the last 15 years. According to the 2012-2013 Annual Report of the Central Information Commission the Cabinet Secretariat is said to have rejected only 18 RTI applications under Section 24. It is not clear whether ARC and SFF received any RTI applications at all last year.

    When one looks up the budget document relating to the demand for grants presented by the Cabinet Secretariat, there is no mention of the outlay for either ARC or SFF in them. Perhaps it remains hidden under the total expenditure estimate for the head - 'Police' under the Home Ministry's segment at Rs. 59,903 crores for the year 2013-14.

    According to a private website run by some volunteers, SFF is said to have been raised at the end of the Indo-China war in 1962, primarily consisting of Tibetan refugees. They are said to have lost several personnel in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. SFF personnel are alleged to have participated in Operation Blusestar to flush out militants from the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. The headquarters of SFF is said to be based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand.

    According to a Wikipedia entry ARC undertakes aerial surveillance operations, monitoring borders, collection of signal intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT).  It was also established in the aftermath of the Indo-China war in 1962. As the Chief of R&AW is also said to be the head of ARC, its headquarters may also be at the secretive premises of R&AW somewhere in New Delhi. 

    The Naresh Chandra Task Force on national security set up a few years ago is reported to have recommended merging ARC with the Cabinet Secretariat's other secretive intelligence wing- R&AW. The report of this Task Force has not been made public. I was also denied access to even the recommendations of this report under the RTI Act soon after the report was submitted to the Government.

    DoPT OM about Single Window System for Seeking Sanction for Prosecuting officers of the IAS and Group 'A' Services
    The DoPT has circulated an Office Memorandum about the procedure for seeking sanction for prosecuting officers of the Indian Administrative Service and all services under Group 'A', particularly when they are performing functions in connection with the affairs of a State Government (2nd attachment). Accused officers may be prosecuted for offences of corruption or other offences specified under the Indian Penal Code. Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code require the appropriate Government's sanction before any accused officer can be prosecuted for offences committed while purportedly performing official duties. The OM make sit mandatory for CBI and other investigating/prosecuting agencies to send the views of the competent administrative authority in the State Government while sending the case file to the DoPT. A check list of documents and information to be attached are also provided at the end of the OM. A list of Group 'A' Services under the Central Government sourced form the 10th Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission is attached (3rd attachment). Perhaps these procedures will apply to officers of the Indian Police and Indian Forest Services although they are categorised as All India Services.

    The only exception is that no such sanction is required for prosecuting retired IAS officers for the offences referred to above.

    Kindly circulate this email widely.

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    Venkatesh Nayak
    Programme Coordinator
    Access to Information Programme
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    B-117, 1st Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave
    New Delhi- 110 017
    Tel: +91-11-43120201/ 43180215
    Fax: +91-11-26864688