Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Man uses RTI to seek Narayanan-Vajpayee correspondence details

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 8, 2006

Man uses RTI to seek Narayanan-Vajpayee correspondence details

R Balaji (PTI)

New Delhi, July 2, 2006


The row over the PMO’s refusal to divulge to the Nanavati Commission some correspondence between Rashtrapati Bhawan and the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee on the Gujarat riots has reached the Central Information Commission with a citizen invoking the Right to Information Act to get the sensitive documents.

A full bench of the CIC is expected to soon take up for adjudication the citizen’s plea to direct the PMO to disclose the classified correspondence between the two top Constitutional functionaries, CIC sources said.

This is the first time since the inception of the CIC that a full bench comprising all the five Commissioners would be sitting to decide a matter of this nature and importance which is considered to be highly sensitive in view of the rigid stance taken by the PMO on it.

In March this year the PMO had twice rejected the directions of the Nanavati Commission to furnish certain official correspondence exchanged between the then President KR Narayanan and Vajpayee on the Gujarat communal riots.

It was widely speculated earlier that Narayanan had made certain critical observations on the Narendra Modi Government and the BJP-led NDA Ministry for alleged ineffective handling of the riots.

Justice Nanavati had sought copies of the correspondence between the two Constitutional functionaries but it was declined by the PMO.

Despite the Nanavati Commission twice requesting the PMO to furnish the information, the latter refused to do so on the ground that the correspondence was “highly confidential” and “sensitive” and hence enjoyed immunity under the Official Secrets Act.

Even as the stalemate between the Commission and the PMO remained unresolved, an aggrieved citizen has recently filed an application before the CIC seeking a direction to the PMO to divulge the said correspondence under the newly legislated Right To Information Act (RTI).

“Since the matter involved a citizen’s right to information and at the same time a Government’s right to withhold certain sensitive correspondence between two Constitutional authorities, it was decided to constitute a full Bench to adjudicate the matter,” sources said.

The five-member bench of the CIC is expected to deliberate over the petition by the end of the week before issuing a notice to the PMO seeking its reply on the dispute, the sources said.


One Response to “Man uses RTI to seek Narayanan-Vajpayee correspondence details”

  1. rtiact2005 said

    CIC calls for correspondence between Narayanan and Vajpayee

    Press Trust of India

    New Delhi, August 8, 2006


    Notwithstanding the reservation of both the Rashtrapati Bhawan and Government, the Central Information Commission on Tuesday called for the classified correspendence exchanged between former President KR Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee regarding the 2002 Gujarat riots.

    Commission’s full bench headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah asked the Ministry of Personnel to submit the correspondence between the period from February 28, 2002 and March 15, 2002.

    The riots broke out after 57 people were killed in a fire that broke out in S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks from Ayodhya on February 27, 2003 near Godhra in Gujarat.

    The CIC order came on an appeal filed by a citizen in February this year invoking the Right to Information Act.

    The appeal was filed by one Ramesh, a resident of Vellore, Tamil Nadu, seeking directions from the CIC to order the Ministry of Personnel disclose the contents of the letters which were earlier asked by Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission claiming privilege.

    The Commission has directed the ministry to produce the document for perusal on August 22 this year through a senior officer, who shall remain present during the process and will take them back after sealing the same in the presence of CIC.

    The order added that it would issue appropriate directions to the Ministry of Personnel only after a careful examination of the sensitive documents.

    The Full Bench had on June 27 heard the matter and also recorded the views of Ramesh via video-conferencing.

    The Ministry of Personnel, represented by the Additional Solicitor General, had asserted that the correspondence concerned a matter involving national security and it would not be in public interest to disclose its contents.

    In reply to this, Ramesh’s counsel strongly argued that the disclosure would in fact help restore confidence in a section of the community that was badly affected by civil strife.

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