Delhi High Court orders ED to disclose information about sexual harassment case under RTI Act

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The Delhi High Court recently directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to disclose information related to a sexual harassment case to a complainant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Justice Prathiba M Singh held that that information pertaining to allegations of sexual harassment would clearly fall within the ambit of human rights violations and thus the ED cannot claim exemption under the RTI Act.

Section 24 of the RTI Act exempts certain intelligence and security organisations from disclosing information under the RTI Act, except in respect of allegations of human rights violations.

Citing this provision, the ED in May 2017 had declined to provide the information regarding the implementation of an order against an officer in a sexual harassment case.

However, the Central Information Commission (CIC) in March 2019 directed the ED to supply the information to the RTI applicant, an employee of the organisation. The decision was challenged by the central agency before the High Court.

The Court had earlier kept the matter pending to await the decision of the Supreme Court in a case relating to the supply of service records to an employee by the ED.

The non-supply of information relating to service could be considered a human rights violation, a division bench of the High Court had held in that case.

The ED challenged the decision before the Supreme Court, which did not approve of the High Court’s reasoning but kept the question of law open.

Considering the same, Justice Singh opined that the issue would have to be considered on a case-to-case basis. In the instant case, the Court said,

“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.”

However, the Court clarified that it has not examined any allegation of sexual harassment and the order is only in respect of the information sought in the RTI Application.

Meanwhile, in a connected case, the High Court has held that information relating to recruitment rules of the ED cannot be disclosed as it would not involve any human rights violations.

“The ED is exempted under Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005 from disclosing the said information,” Justice Singh had said, while setting aside an order of CIC directing the ED to disclose the information.

Special Counsel Zoheb Hossain with Advocates Vivek Gurnani, Manisha Dubey and Kanishk Maurya represented the Directorate of Enforcement.

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