Friday, 17 August, 2007

Russia says no, but CIC wants Netaji correspondence

A virtual tug of war has been set off between the Central Information Commission and the Russian Foreign Ministry what with the latter disallowing disclosure of Netaji fate related correspondence and the former wanting that they be revealed. And caught in between is the Ministry of Affairs, clearly on the Russian side and unwilling to declassify the correspondence.

The development follows after a hearing before Information Commissioner Dr OP Kajeriwal on 10 August 2007. During the hearing, the MEA conveyed to the CIC that "according to the correspondence received from the Embassy of India, Moscow, the Russian Foreign Office has stated that the documents handed over by them in June 2001 were meant only for the GOI's official use and for the work of the Commission in investigations into the disappearance of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose."

This reply was contested by Dhar, present at hearing, who said "the Ministry itself admits to have taken up the matter with the Soviets and the Russians. I want that correspondence. I want it all. Not just some documents handed over in 2001."

Taking a considerate view, the CIC, in its decision released yesterday evening, stated that "the Commission accepted this request (of Dhar's) and directed the Respondents to clearly mention this while seeking the approval of the Russian authorities for disclosure of this material.

"Commission all for disclosure of this material to the Appellant. However, it advises the Ministry of External Affairs to seek a formal clearance from the Russian Authorities in the matter."

Background: In August 2006, Mission Netaji sought "copies of the complete correspondence the MEA has had with the Governments of the USSR and the Russian Federation over the disappearance of Netaji" and the information whether the "MEA sought information from the Russians by issuing mere note verbales, or some serious efforts were ever made from a higher level." Admitting that the matter had been taken up with the Russians "through the diplomatic channels at appropriate level", the Ministry, however, declined to divulge the correspondence citing Clause 8(1) (a) & (f) of the RTI Act.

The clause cited by the Ministry has it that the Government may not disclose "information received in confidence from foreign Government" and the "information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic ... interests of the State, relation with foreign State".

Similar position was maintained by then Appellate Authority in the Ministry after Dhar wrote to him in September seeking a review of the decision. Thereafter, the matter was taken to the Central Information Commission (CIC). On 23 March 2007, the Bench of Information Commissioner Dr OP Kejariwal heard the views of Dhar and Ministry officials Ajai Choudhary, Additional Secretary (PP), and AK Nag, Joint Secretary & CPIO.

Ticking off the Ministry for summarily dismissing Dhar's request, the Commission ordered them to "have this correspondence examined", "take a firm decision". Making things complex for the MEA, the Commission added that in case they felt that the relations between India and Russia were going to be affected, "the Commission would like the issue to be settled only after a reference has been made to the Government of Russia."
Media coverage: Zee, Sify, Jagran

1 comment:

Sreejith Kumar said...

Statesman, HT and Zee news have shown the news on their sites...