CIC directs release of documents relating to Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death

Central Information Commission: The Central Information Commissioner, M.S. Acharyulu on Friday heard an application by one Navdeep Gupta who requested the MHA for details pertaining to the cremation and post-mortem of the former PM. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) forwarded the request to the National Archives which denied having any information about the same and expressed the probability that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) or the Indian embassy in Russia or the Russian embassy in India might have details of the same.

The CIC then proceeded to describe multiple sources, including previously denied RTIs asking for similar details, citing national security; and multiple articles published in magazines, websites etc, which document the events surrounding the PM’s mysterious death, the inability of the Janta government constituted inquiry commission to find any leads, and the statements made by Shastri’s relatives about requests for his post-mortem being rejected and the equally mysterious death of two important witnesses before they could depose before the inquiry commission. No records of the Commission’s proceedings are to be found as well, not even in the Parliament’s library.

Hence the CIC established the right of the public to know about the circumstances of their leader’s death, more so because of the uncertainty and attitude of secrecy surrounding it. The Commission hence directed the Prime Minister’s Office, the MHA, the MEA, the National Archives, and Parliament Secretariat to make fresh efforts to recover whatever parts of the inquiry possible and release them to the common public. If the said public authorities feel that any part of the documents so found are hit by Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, which places restrictions on the right to information in the following words: “8(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,— (a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.”; they shall inform the Commission about the same which shall then decide on whether the said information can be disclosed. The above authorities were directed to submit their replies by June 18. [Navdeep Gupta v. PIO, National Archives of India,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 311, order dated 11-05-2018]

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *