Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Information panel to peruse Narayanan-Vajpayee letters

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 11, 2006

Information panel to peruse Narayanan-Vajpayee letters

Legal Correspondent


To decide whether correspondence should be made public



  • With RIA, immunity from disclosure goes
  • Difficult to understand on what grounds information has been denied
  • All concerned have admitted the sensitivity of matter


    New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the Centre to produce in a sealed cover the letters exchanged between the former President K.R. Narayanan and the former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee on the 2002 Gujarat riots. It wants to peruse the letters to decide whether or not to make them public.

    The Commission passed this interim order on an appeal filed by C. Ramesh of Vellore in Tamil Nadu seeking a direction to the Government to disclose the correspondence.

    Government stand

    The Government took the stand that the entire correspondence between Narayanan and Mr. Vajpayee, protected under Article 74 (2), was exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act (RIA) and the Constitution. The decision not to disclose the information was taken with the utmost responsibility. This correspondence was exchanged during a critical time in a State and any disclosure would result in damage to the public interest.

    Rejecting this contention, the Commission, quoting Supreme Court decisions, said: “It may be inferred that Articles 74 (2), 78 and 361 do not per se entitle the public authorities to claim “privilege” from disclosure. Now since the RIA has come into force, whatever immunity from disclosure the State could have claimed under the law, stands virtually extinguished except on the ground explicitly mentioned under Section 8 and in some cases under Section 11 of the RIA.”

    The Commission said: “It is difficult to understand on what grounds the information has been denied. It is also difficult to comprehend how the disclosure of the information is going to affect the strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State. It appears that the denial has been communicated in a mechanical manner.

    “Prima facie, the correspondence involves a sensitive matter of public interest. The sensitivity of the matter and involvement of a larger public interest have also been admitted by all concerned including the appellant. We consider it appropriate that before taking a final decision on this appeal, we should personally examine the documents to decide whether the larger public interest would require their disclosure or not.”

    Only then would the Commission issue appropriate directions to the public authority.

    It directed the public authority to produce the documents on August 22 through a senior officer, who would be present during the perusal and would thereafter seal and take them back.

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