The Delhi High Court has observed that reports and dossiers by intelligence authorities relating to terrorist activities cannot be disclosed under RTI.

The Court made this observation while dealing with the plea by death row convict-Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique in Mumbai Blast Case.

He had sought the true copy of the report/ dossier submitted by Maharashtra Government regarding investigation of bomb blast case in 2006 and the true copy of report/dossier submitted by the Andhra Pradesh Government in 2009 regarding investigation of Indian Mujahideen group related to 7/ 11 bomb blast case.

“Reports and dossiers by intelligence authorities relating to terrorist activities, which are subject matter of investigation are barred and thus, cannot be disclosed under RTI especially, if they compromise the sovereignty and integrity of the country.”, Justice Pratibha M Singh observed.

The petitioner had filed RTI application in 2017 seeking the above-mentioned documents.

The said RTI application was rejected by the CPIO, Ministry of Home Affairs (Internal Security Division-I).

The Petitioner filed first appeal before the Joint Secretary, First Appellate Authority which also came to be rejected.

Finally, second appeal was filed before the CIC under Section 19(3) of the RTI Act.

The same was dismissed by the Central Information Commission in 2019.

As per the impugned order passed by the CIC, it was held that the requested documents cannot be provided in view of Sections 8(1)(h) and 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act as also the fact that there are various other accused, including foreign nationals, who are still absconding in this matter.

Advocate Arpit Bhargava appeared for the petitioner-convict whereas Rahul Sharma, Central Government Counsel appeared for Respondent.

The High Court observed that terrorist activities affect the integrity of India as also the safety and security of its citizens.

The Court further noted that the fact that one particular investigation qua a particular individual may have been concluded would not in any manner mean that all the investigations have concluded finally.

“The Mumbai blasts which are the subject matter of the reports, were one of the worst terror attacks on India, leading to hundreds of deaths and hundreds of injured persons. Thus, reports/dossiers on such investigations can have a major bearing on India’s security, sovereignty and integrity.”, the Court added.

The Court observed that larger public interest is in protecting the safety and security and not in disclosing such reports.

The Court also noted that the rights of innocent people could be jeopardised by the disclosure of the information and that the disclosure of the information cannot be made on the plank of human rights.

‘…the CPIO’s order dated 22nd June, 2017 rejecting the Petitioner’s RTI Application under the exemption incorporated under Section 8(1)(a), cannot be faulted with and the same has been rightly upheld by the CIC vide the impugned order dated 31st July 2019.”, the Court held while disposing of the petition.

Cause Title- Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique v. CPIO

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