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Disclose if Prez Sectt objected to high-rise near Rashtrapati

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Delhi High Court today asked the President's Secretariat to disclose information on whether it had objected to a high rise apartment complex being built near the Rashtrapati Bhawan here.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru, however, said any input received from security and intelligence agencies on the issue need not be disclosed till the Central Information Commission (CIC) decides whether there was any element of corruption in the matter.

The observation by the court came in its order disposing of the secretariat's plea challenging the CIC's direction to it to disclose whether it had raised any security concerns regarding the construction.

The court said that since the secretariat has admitted before it that it had raised security concerns regarding the high-rise construction, "there was no occasion" for it to deny disclosure of the information.

Central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh, appearing for the secretariat, told the court that objections were raised, but the information was not provided to RTI applicant S C Agarwal as it contained inputs from security and intelligence agencies.

On the other hand, advocate Amit Khemka, appearing for Agarwal, said if the intelligence inputs pertained to allegations of corruption, it has to be disclosed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The court said the aspect of whether the information sought by the RTI applicant pertained to any corruption in the acquisition of 23 acres of land near the Rashtrapati Bhawan, allegedly at a price much lower than the market rate, shall be looked into by the Commission.

The court also said that information received from security and intelligence agencies is required to be shared under the RTI Act if it pertains to corruption.

Noting that the CIC order of May 11, 2016, contained no reasoning or observations on the aspect of corruption, the court set it aside and remanded it back to the Commission for a decision on the issue.

It said the CIC "shall pass a reasoned order expeditiously and within six months."

Agarwal had sought information under RTI on whether the President's Secretariat had objected to the construction of the high-rise, based on a March 2014 news report that BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has sought a SIT probe into the construction of the building near the Rashtrapati Bhawan as well as the manner in which the land was sold to a private entity.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 5:45 PM IST

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