The Border Security Force has been directed to disclose information under the Right to Information Act about a youth who went missing from Kashmir 20 years ago.
The decision is first of its kind as paramilitary forces, including BSF, are kept outside the ambit of RTI Act except for disclosing information related to corruption and human rights violation.
"Nevertheless it is conceded by all parties that in the present case the request is an allegation of disappearance in custody of a civilian working in a government department in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and therefore amounts to an allegation of human rights violation, which makes the BSF answerable," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in his order.
The case relates to the suspected disappearance from police custody of Mohammad Ashraf Yatoo of Badipora, Chadoora who went missing after allegedly being arrested by paramilitary personnel in December 1990 during a crackdown.
Acting on the complaint of a Kashmir-based RTI activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Habibullah pulled up the security force for returning the fee deposited by him for the disclosure of information.
"It was not for BSF Headquarters to return the fee paid by complainant Raja Muzaffar Bhat and ask him to contact Frontier Headquarters, BSF, which, allegedly not having been contacted, has failed to provide any information to complainant," he said.
"In the normal course, the BSF Headquarters should have taken recourse to section 6(3)(ii) of the RTI Act whereby the application should have been transferred within five days of receipt to the public authority to which the subject matter of information sought is more closely connected," Habibullah said.
The Commission asked Bhat to produce details of FIR and other relevant documents to BSF within a week and gave another 15 days to BSF to disclose all the information on the issue.
Bhat, who is running a voluntary group in the valley 'Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement', said this was the first application about a missing youth in which orders for disclosure of information have been issued.
"By using tools such as RTI, we are trying to reinstate the belief in the democratic system," Bhat told PTI.
"The law is a tool where an ordinary person can question police, Army and paramilitary forces which were not accountable till now," Bhat said.