Former Intelligence Bureau special director Rajender Kumar, chargesheeted in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, has approached Central Information Commission seeking disclosure of correspondence between the Central Bureau of Investigation and the law ministry and opinion of the attorney general in the case.
Kumar had filed his application under the Right to Information Act with the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal ministry for handling affairs of the central investigation agency, which cited exemptions given in the RTI Act to withhold the information.
The CBI had charged the former IB officer, who retired in 2013, under Indian Penal Code sections of criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, wrongful confinement and provisions of arms act in the case without waiting for the opinion of the attorney general in the case.
Union home ministry had refused to give sanction to prosecute Kumar and other IB officials.
In its RTI response, the ministry on December 19, 2014 had said that the information cannot be disclosed under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act which exempts disclosure of information which can impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the accused.
The ministry also cited clauses Sections 8 (1)(e) (information held in fiduciary capacity), 8(1)(g)( which would endanger the life or physical safety of a person) and 8(1)(j) (personal information) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission, the officer argued that since the investigation has been completed by the agency and supplementary chargesheet has already been filed the above sections will not hold.
He also argued that the central public information officer has failed to show how the disclosure of information would impede the process of investigation. He also contended that the CPIO has failed to explain how the opinion of the attorney general is held in the fiduciary capacity.
Making strong pitch for the disclosure of the information, the officer also said that since the information was related to him, the argument of it endangering life of a person or causing unwarranted invasion of privacy of individual would not be applicable.
Ironically, the DoPT, which has been transferring any RTI application related to the CBI to the agency which has been exempted from the RTI Act except in cases where information sought is related to allegations of corruption and human rights violations, decided to handle the case itself.
Since October 9, when Rajendra Kumar forwarded his arguments for the disclosure of information, the DoPT has sought five adjournments to have the matter examined in the ministry.
Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava has now given the date of February 18, 2016 to the DoPT to come up with its grounds of withholding the information.
Nearly a decade after Ishrat was murdered along with her friend Javed Sheikh alias Parnesh Pillai in Gujarat and two others on June 15, 2004, the CBI had filed a supplementary chargesheet naming Kumar, who was the then joint director of the IB and posted in Gujarat.
The agency had named three other serving officers of criminal conspiracy and other offences.
The CBI went ahead with the chargesheet against the IB officers notwithstanding the denial of sanction of prosecution by the law ministry which had stated that the evidence was not enough.
The CBI alleged in its supplementary chargesheet that Kumar, who was the then joint director of the IB, handed over arms and ammunition to Singhal of Gujarat police who passed the weapons to Deputy SP Tarun Barot through Nizamuddin Sayeed.
These arms and ammunition were allegedly used in executing the crime.
The CBI had said Ishrat and others were in the custody of the Gujarat police before being killed and, in fact, she and Javed had been interrogated by Kumar at a farm house on the outskirts of the city where they were kept in confinement.
All the four were taken to the encounter spot near Kotarpur Waterworks blindfolded before being shot dead in cold blood, the CBI had said.