File photo of media gathered outside the CBI Headquarters in New Delhi | PTI
File photo of the CBI Headquarters in New Delhi | PTI
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Sridhar Acharyulu, who retired as a central information commissioner Tuesday, says CBI needs to brought back under the realm of RTI Act.

New Delhi: Caught in the midst of a controversy even on his last day in office, former central information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu urged the Narendra Modi government to bring the embattled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the realm of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“People of India have the right to know how the government transferred 13 officers overnight,” Acharyulu, who retired Tuesday, told ThePrint in an interview.

“It was wrong to have removed the CBI from the realm of RTI, and it needs to brought back,” he said.

“Ultimately, the CBI is just another police organisation, and if all other police bodies are under the RTI, why this special treatment to the CBI?” asked Acharyulu.

CBI was removed from the realm of the Act in 2011 on grounds that the investigating body handles sensitive cases with significant ramifications for the country’s security.

“The CBI should be bought back under RTI immediately,” he said.

‘Illegal, unconstitutional’

Known for not succumbing to pressure and giving several bold orders, including the recent showcause notice to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Finance Ministry asking them to explain what action was taken on a letter sent by former central bank governor Raghuram Rajan to the government in 2015, Acharyulu found himself surrounded by controversy even the day he demitted office.

Former chief information commissioner R.K. Mathur, who retired from the Central Information Commission (CIC) Thursday, was reportedly of the view that Acharyulu should not have passed an order in the case and should have transferred it to another commissioner.

While Acharyulu fell short of saying that the Modi government was actively pressurising the CIC to toe its line, he said the government’s attempt to amend the RTI Act were “illegal and unconstitutional”.

“The government cannot build an institution which is uncertain and non-continuous and whose officers don’t know their tenure and salary,” he said.

“You cannot dilute the Act which was made by the people of this country… The Act clearly states that the commissioners would have a fixed term and cannot be removed easily, nobody can change that,” said Acharyulu.

The government came up with a set of proposed amendments to the RTI Act during the monsoon session of Parliament, which would have enabled the Centre to have a direct say in matters relating to ranks, tenures and salaries and allowances of both central and state information commissioners.

Also read: Law Secretary Suresh Chandra had a quiet career — until his name got embroiled in CBI mess

The ‘Act-ist’

Called an “activist” by some of his former colleagues, Acharyulu first became a thorn for the Bharatiya Janata Party government last year when he passed an order allowing inspection of DU’s 1978 B.A. degree records — the year in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to have graduated.

Two days later, he was stripped of the charge of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD).

However, there is nothing activist-like about his functioning, Acharyulu said.

“I was never standing on the street with banners or filing RTIs myself…I only analyse and implement the RTI Act,” he said.

“So, I’m an Act-ist, not an activist,” he said.

Also read: How CBI went from being a caged parrot to a wild vulture

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