New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has upheld the Delhi police’s decision to withhold information in a case against controversial godman Asaram Bapu. The CIC accepted the police’s argument that a zero FIR was registered at the Kamla Market police station on August 20, 2013, and since it includes rape allegations, details of the case cannot be provided to the appellant to protect the identity of the victim.
The appellant, Ravi Kumar Kalra, had contended that the alleged incident involving Asaram Bapu never actually took place and therefore he was seeking to “investigate the falsehood behind it”, information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad recorded in his order.
Through an RTI application filed on March 28, 2017, Kalra had sought information regarding the FIR which was registered at the Kamla Market police station.
The victim, a 16-year-old girl, had gone to the police station along with her parents and lodged a complaint against the self-styled godman of sexually assaulting her. The police had noted that as the incident had taken place in Rajasthan, they had transferred the case to Jodhpur.
Asaram Bapu’s ashram had refuted the allegations, saying it was just “another attempt to tarnish Bapu’s image”.
On March 13, 2016, Kartik Haldar, reportedly a henchman of Asaram Bapu, was arrested by the Anti Terrorism Squad of the Gujarat police for allegedly killing three persons. One of his victims was Kripal Singh, a clerk in the office of the father of the girl who had lodged a complaint against Asaram Bapu in Delhi and subsequently Jodhpur. Singh was an eyewitness in the rape case and was murdered on July 10, 2015.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had announced that it would start examining the victims who had accused Asaram Bapu of assault.
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In response to the petition by Kalra, the Delhi police had stated that since the case was transferred to the SSP Jodhpur, Rajasthan, it was also transferring the RTI application to him “for providing information at their end”. The Delhi police had, however, refused to part with information available with them in the records of the Kamla Market police station, stating that it “cannot be provided to you under the provisions of Section 8(1) (g) & (j) of RTI Act 2005 as it consists of information given in confidence for law enforcement authority and personal information, disclosure of which does not seem to have any public interest”.
Dissatisfied with the response received from Delhi police’s public information officer, Kalra had filed a first appeal. After the First Appellate Authority reiterated the reply, he had approached the CIC.
During the hearing in the CIC, Kalra charged that he began receiving response from the Delhi police only after he filed the second appeal.
Delhi police placed on record a written statement dated January 29, 2018 stating that not only was the information exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(g) & (j) of the Right to Information Act, Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code also clearly prohibits disclosure of such information.
Taking the arguments into consideration, the information commission held that the CIC was convinced that “there appears no larger public interest involved in dissemination of information in this case” and therefore it was “evident that disclosure of information in this case is likely to infringe upon the privacy and security of third person/s, who is the victim in a rape case.”
As such, Azad said, the Delhi police has denied information citing the relevant provisions of law, as noted above. He also upheld the denial of information under the provisions of Section 8 (1)(g) and (j) of the RTI Act.