ANI Photo | “Information sought may expose officers, who probed case, to grave danger,” says Delhi HC dismissing Mumbai Train blast death convict

The Delhi High Court recently dismissed petitions moved by 7/11 Mumbai Train Blast death convict Ehtesham Qutbuddin Siddiqui seeking information of officers of the Home Ministry who probed the case and gave sanction for his arrest.
The High Court said, “The Information sought may expose these officers to grave danger.”
He had also sought information related to an alleged report of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). He also sought information from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
Justice Subramonium Prasad refused to interfere with the orders of CIC refusing to give information under RTI.
The Petitioner had moved petitions through advocate Arpit Bhargava claiming that the personal information can be granted to him because the information has been sought after 20 years from the date of appointment of the officers concerned.
In the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and DoPT cases, the High Court noted that the information as sought by the Petitioner is against the officers who were involved in the investigation and who were also involved in granting sanction to the prosecution relating to the arrest and conviction of the Petitioner.
“The information is of such a nature, if given to the Petitioner, may expose these officers to grave danger,” Justice Prasad held.
The High Court noted that the incident for which the Petitioner has been sentenced to the death penalty occurred in the year 2006.
The Court said that admittedly, 20 years have not passed after the date of the incident, and therefore, in any event, the benefit of Section 8(3) of the RTI Act is not available to the Petitioner in the facts of the present case.
“Even if it is assumed that 20 years have passed, in such cases the right of privacy for these officers, who can be exposed to grave risk, cannot be diverged to an accused and that too when the accused has been convicted and sentenced to
death penalty,” Justice Prasad pointed out.
The High Court rejected the contention that it would serve the public interest if the information was provided.
The Bench said that the Petitioner has not brought out any case as to what public interest would be served by giving such information as sought for by the Petitioner which would outweigh the protected interest under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.
The bench observed, “Rather in the facts of this case, the protected interest is in the
nature of the danger to the life and property of the officers who were involved in the investigation relating to the Petitioner and that disclosing their information to the Petitioner would certainly outweigh the public interest that has been claimed.”
They dismissed the petitions and said, “As rightly pointed out by the Learned CIC, in the present case, the public interest would lie in not disclosing the names and details of the officers concerned to protect their life and property and there is no public interest in disclosing the details of the officers concerned regarding their appointment, which is sought for by the Petitioner.”
The Petitioner has been convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in the Mumbai Twin Blast known as the 7/11 bomb blast case which took place in the year 2006.
The Petitioner had made an RTI application seeking copies of UPSC forms and other documents related to the appointment of 12 IPS officers who had supervised the investigation relating to the bomb blasts in which the Petitioner had been arrested and convicted.
In another petition, he had made an RTI application seeking copies of the UPSC form and other documents related to the appointment of 4 IAS officers who had accorded sanction to the prosecution related to the arrest and conviction of the Petitioner.
The information was denied by the CPIO, (MHA) and the CPIO, (DoPT) on the ground that the information as sought by the Petitioner is exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The appeals thereto were also rejected by the Appellate Authority on the very
same ground.
The Petitioner before both the CPIOs and the Appellate Authority had taken the ground that the information as sought could not be rejected on the ground that it relates to the personal information of the officers as 20 years had passed since the appointment of the officers was made from the date on which the request
for the information has been made.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) rejected the appeal and held that the information sought would encroach upon the right of privacy of the officers concerned.
The CIC held that the object of the RTI Act is to ensure transparency and accountability but since the right to privacy is a continuous process such a right to privacy will continue even after 20 years.
In the third petition, it was stated that he had made an RTI application, on September 4, 2017, to the CPIO (IB) seeking a copy of an alleged Intelligence Bureau report, suggesting false implication and arrest of accused persons, placed before the Ministry of Home Affairs in the year 2009 for review of evidence in the bomb blast case.
The information sought was rejected by the CPIO, (MHA), by way of a letter dated September 21, 2017, on the ground that the agency from which the information was sought by the Petitioner is exempted from the purview of the RTI Act under Section 24(1). The information was also denied by the CIC.
The High Court said that the information sought by the Petitioner is on the basis of a
newspaper article, published in the year 2009, alleging the existence of an Intelligence Bureau report, suggesting false implication and arrest of accused persons, placed before the MHA for review of evidence in the bomb blast case.
The High Court said that It has been well established, through various judgments of the apex court, that a report or an article published in a newspaper is considered only heresy evidence and such a newspaper report, or article, is not a document through which an allegation of fact can be proven.
“This court is of the opinion that no such gross error has occurred by the CIC in their adjudication of the order. The premise on which the Petitioner is relying, the publishing of such a newspaper article, cannot be taken as gospel truth. Affidavits have been filed by responsible officers in the Court stating that no such report exists. This Court has no reason to disbelieve the affidavit of the Respondent, Justice Prasad said

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