Move to declassify Netaji files sparks RTI angst

  • Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2015 00:00 IST
An archival image of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to declassify Netaji files could lead to some awkward moments for the government.

A right to information activist has asked the central information commission (CIC) to order the prime minister’s office to compensate him for refusing information on the ground that putting the files in public domain would “prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries”.

Modi while hosting Subhas Chandra Bose’s family at his official residence on October 14 had announced his decision to begin declassifying all government files related to the freedom fighter from January 23, Netaji’s 119th birth anniversary. He even promised to write to other countries asking them to do the same.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal said Modi’s statement proved beyond doubt that the stand taken by the PMO during the CIC hearing in August and earlier was “totally wrong”.

Bose’s last years and death remain a mystery. Some supporters and family members have refused to accept that the freedom fighter, who fled India in 1941, died four years later in an air crash in present-day Taiwan.

While two government panels concluded that Bose died in the Taihoku crash, a third probe said there was no record of the August 18, 1945 plane accident.

Agrawal invoked Section 19 of the RTI act that empowers the CIC to direct a public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered.

Apart from mental agony, Agrawal said the PMO’s refusal to share information without a justified cause had cost him time and money.

The Prime Minister’s Office could deposit the compensation into the prime minister’s relief fund and send him a receipt, Agarwal said.

Chief information commissioner Vijai Sharma though heard Agrawal’s petition seeking disclosure of the Netaji files on August 26, he is yet to deliver the verdict in this sensitive case.

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