A Right to Information (RTI) application on the contents of the interlocutors’ report on Kashmir, has been rejected by the home ministry for having potential of "prejudicial affect on the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic interest” of the country.
In reply to an application filed by Dr Raja Muzaffar, heading J-K RTI Movement, on November 17, the home ministry has returned the application seeking contents of the report.
“I am directed to refer to your application and to say that the information sought by you cannot be provided as it attracts the provisions of Section 8(1)(a) and (c) of the RTI Act, 2005,” said PP Singh, deputy secretary in the Ministry of home department.
Under the two sections, information can be withheld if the information could prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence and if information, the disclosure could cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.
“The clause invoked for the rejection is strange. How can a report filed by New Delhi-appointed people threat to sovereignty and security of the country. If it’s so, then why was it submitted in first place?” asked Bhat.
Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator of the Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, sees a technical fault in the home ministry reply.
“The PIO has dealt with the RTI application in an amateurish manner. First, he seems to be writing on the orders of some unnamed senior or superior officer. This is not allowed under the Right to Information Act, 2005 as the PIO is required to make a decision of disclosure or otherwise on his own without being dependent on the advice or guidance of any other officer. Instead of using one's statutory powers the PIO has merely conveyed the decision of his senior officers not to disclose the information. This is nothing but an abdication of one's statutory duty,” said Nayak.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram appointed journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner MM Ansari as interlocutors in October 2010, just after four-month long violent protests broke out in Kashmir after a schoolboy died in police action on June 11, 2010.
The interlocutors were mandated to come up with contours of political solution to the Kashmir problem. The interlocutors submitted their report to the home ministry in November this year; since then the details were kept a secret as the report will first be placed before all parties for a discussion. But the home minister has failed to do so till date.