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The Supreme Court today fixed February 6 for hearing a plea challenging the government's 2011 decision to keep the CBI out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud posted the matter for final hearing after the parties said that they need time to make detailed submissions on the issue. The case was first filed in the Delhi High Court, but later transferred to the top court after the Centre had said that several petitions in this regard have been filed in different high courts across the country. A PIL seeking that the probe agency be brought under the RTI Act was filed in 2011 in the Delhi High Court by advocate Ajay Agrawal, who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Rai Bareilly constituency against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The high court had, in July 2011, issued notices to the government and the CBI as the advocate had alleged that the agency was brought out of the ambit of the RTI after he sought information regarding documents relating to the politically- sensitive Bofors payoff case. The government had told the high court that the exemption granted to the CBI under RTI was not a "blanket exemption" and does not warrant judicial interference. The petition said that the exemption from RTI was prevalent for intelligence and security organisations, including Intelligence Bureau, RAW, DRI and ED. When the agency filed the plea for transfer of all similar matters from different high courts to the apex court, the proceedings before the Delhi High Court got stayed. In the fresh application before the apex court, Agrawal has alleged that the government's 2011 notification was issued "solely to scuttle the RTI appeal pending before the Chief Information Commissioner, New Delhi in regard to the Bofors case in which order was passed by the CIC directing the CBI to provide the requisite papers to the petitioner". Agrawal, who was pursuing Bofors payoff case for years, has sought quashing of the Centre's June 9, 2011 notification, contending that "by issuing the notification and placing CBI in the second Schedule, the government appears to be claiming absolute secrecy for CBI without the sanction of the law." The petition has claimed that the government's move appeared to be "arbitrary" in nature. With no reasons advanced, "citizens are likely to deduce that the purpose of including the CBI in the Second Schedule was to curb transparency and accountability from the investigations of several corruption cases against high- ranking Government officers", it contended.
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