Wednesday 23 May 2007

Put off hearing on destroyed Netaji file: PMO to CIC

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has demanded that Chief Information Officer Wajahat Habibullah puts off a scheduled hearing pertaining to a non-extant file on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's reported death. In a letter to Central Information Commission (CIC), Kamal Dayani, Director & Central Public Information Officer, PMO, has sought dismissal of an appeal filed by Anuj Dhar of Mission Netaji.

Dayani tells the Commission that Dhar had no "valid ground to rush to CIC before exhausting the 1st appeal under the RTI Act".

Dhar, who promptly e-mailed a rejoinder to the CIC, maintains that the PMO's demand "amounts to questioning the Commission's considered decision" and that his "request was handled casually by the PMO," forcing him to move to the CIC.

According to Dhar, PMO was "not willing to give a straight answer to a pointed question".

Dhar originally requested the Cabinet Secretariat to furnish copies of "all papers concerning the destruction" of PMO file titled "Investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Shri Subhas Chandra Bose". The Cabinet Secretariat forwarded his request to the Prime Minister's Office, which replied that file "was destroyed in 1972, during routine process of review/weeding of old records."

Thereafter Dhar complained to the CIC that rather than giving details/copies of papers concerning the destruction of the file, Dayani's letter merely reiterated what had been stated by him in the application itself. He also cited a letter from PMO to Mukherjee Commission stating that the Cabinet Secretariat might be holding some relevant records about the destroyed file.

"The application was filed to understand the circumstances in which a sensitive PMO file dealing with the highly controversial fate of a national hero was destroyed at a time when a judicial inquiry (Khosla Commission) into the matter was on. It is very suspicious that the 'routine process of review/weeding of old records' overlooked this and the file was destroyed along with some useless records. Commonsense dictates that such a historically important record should have been preserved for posterity and transferred to National Archives in due course," Dhar wrote to CIC.

Thereafter, the CIC issued a notice for hearing on 10 August and sought PMO's comments. The PMO's latest letter is in the response.

Related posts: PMO asked to respond in 15 days; Team MN and the need to know

Text of the letters:

PMO to CIC (and CC to Anuj Dhar, who received the letter yesterday)

Subject: Notice for hearing of appeal under Section 19 of the RTI Act, 2005

Sir,

I am to refer to CIC's letter No CIC/WB/A/2006/00785 dated 3 May 2007 on the Subject mentioned above and to furnish comments in the matter as under.

2. Shri Anuj Dhar vide his application dated 2.8.2006 addressed to Cabinet Secretariat has sought certified copies of all papers concerning the destruction of file No. 12(226)/56-PM titled "Investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Shri Subhas Chandra Bose". The application was transferred to PMO by the Cabinet Secretariat vide their letter dated 17.8.2006 to provide the requisite information to the applicant.

3. CPIO, PMO vide his letter No RTI/219/2006-PMA dated 4.9.2006 replied to the applicant that the said file was destroyed in 1972 during routine process of review/weeding of old records. This reply clearly certified that the file has been destroyed. It is a fact that the letter of CPIO did not mention the details of the Appellate Authority to whom appeal against the reply of CPIO lies. However, the applicant could have easily ascertained the details of the 1st appellate authority which was given in the PMO website or telephonically from the CPIO whose telephone number was given in the reply. In view of this, there is valid ground to rush to CIC before exhausting the 1st appeal under the RTI Act.

4. In view of the foregoing, his appeal to CIC may be dismissed as not maintainable and he may be advised to exhaust the 1st appeal provision.

Yours faithfully

Kamal Dayani
Director & CPIO
Prime Minister's Office

Dhar to CIC (e-mailed today)

I received yesterday letter No. RTI/219/2006-PMA dated 17 May 2007 from Shri Kamal Dayani, Director & Central Public Information Officer, PMO, in response to the Commission Notice for hearing of appeal dated May 3, 2007 over F. No. CIC/WB/A/2006/00785.

As such, I have the following submissions to make:

1. Shri Dayani wants that my appeal to the CIC be "dismissed as not maintainable". I should think that such a demand, coming after the issuance of the notice, amounts to questioning the honourable Commission's considered decision.

2. Shri Dayani's latest letter, which I find somewhat patronizing, provides yet another instance that the PMO is not willing to give a straight answer to a pointed question.

3. I was constrained to bring the matter before the Commission not merely because Shri Dayani's earlier response had not referred to the name of the first Appellate Authority -- the onus of providing whose name was on him under the RTI Act -- but because it appeared to me that my request was handled casually by the PMO. A quick read of Shri Dayani's curt answer dated 4 September 2006 would bear this out.

4. I had specifically requested the Cabinet Secretariat for "certified copies of all papers concerning the destruction of file No. 12(226)/56-PM". According to a letter dated 4 July 2000 to the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (1999-2005), by Director, PMO, " file No 12(226)/56-PM which contained agenda paper/cabinet decision regarding 'Investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Shri Subhas Chandra Bose' was destroyed in 1972 in the course of routine review/weeding of old records since records of Cabinet proceedings are kept permanently in Cabinet Secretariat, from where they may be procured". (Emphasis added)

5. However, the Cabinet Secretariat passed the matter to the PMO. PMO wrote to me, and is reiterating yet again, that the said file was destroyed. A look at my request would show that I never sought this information as the fact of the destruction of file was already known to me, and indeed I had mentioned the same in my request. I had requested for papers concerning the destruction of the file.

6. I, therefore, feel that no useful purpose would be served by my taking up this matter with the Appellate Authority, PMO, other than unnecessarily prolonging it. I'd also request the honourable Commission to direct the PMO to ascertain facts about the above stated "agenda paper/cabinet decision" from the Cabinet Secretariat before their representative appears at the hearing on 10 August.

9 comments:

Manas Khan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deepak said...

Congress showing their true color

freedom said...

anujji, your effort has shown the world govt. of India's promptness to hide a truth rather than to unearth it.

Manas Khan said...

by sending such a letter PMO clearly show what they are upto.... and their whole hearted effort to burry the truth. shame on them.

Arani said...

Isn't there another RTI case against PMO? Any news about that?

Manas Khan said...

@ Arani
That case is against the MHA I suppose...

Anuj Dhar said...

the other RTI case pertains to classified files held by the PMO. We were denied a list of it. CIC will issue a notice on this in due course of time.

Anuj Dhar said...

the MHA hearing is on 5th June. A full bench hearing...which is only for special cases.

Anonymous said...

full bench looks interesting