The High Court of Delhi has held that although the Enforcement Directorate is exempt from the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it may be ordered to provide information about human rights violations, including claims of sexual harassment.
The order was issued by the Court in response to two petitions filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) contesting two orders issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC) requiring specific information to be disclosed to RTI applicants.
One of the applicants requested administrative information about recruitment policies, while the other, an ED legal adviser, requested information about her own claims of sexual harassment.
The CIC order from the first instance was overturned by Justice Prathiba M. Singh, who also ordered the agency to provide the information requested by the RTI applicant in the second case within eight weeks.
The Court Ordered, “the ED is exempted under Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005 from disclosing the said information (on recruitment rules). Accordingly, the impugned order dated 27th November, 2019 passed by the CIC is set aside”.
“Insofar as W.P.(C) 5588/2019 is concerned, in the opinion of this Court, the information sought in the RTI Application relates to an allegation of sexual harassment by the RTI Applicant/ Respondent..In this case, the non-disclosure of information of allegations of sexual harassment, in the opinion of this Court, would fall clearly within the conspectus of human rights violations, as exempted by the proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005,” opined the court in a recent order.
Justice Singh said the consistent view in decisions by the courts has been that organisations like the Intelligence Bureau (IB), ED & Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) are considered to be exempted organisations as per section 24 of the RTI Act but the proviso to this section has been interpreted to hold that the information related to exempted organisations can be disclosed in cases of corruption & human rights violation.
About the information sought by the other applicant “only about recruitment rules”, the court said it was “not a case which would involve any human rights violation & is accordingly not exempted by the proviso”.
The benefit of the proviso will be applicable to the RTI applicant who sought certain information pertaining to the allegations of sexual harassment made by her, the court concluded.
“The ED is directed to disclose the information sought by the RTI Applicant/ Respondent within eight weeks,” ordered the court as it clarified that it has not examined any allegation of sexual harassment.