Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Exhibits of Shah Nawaz Committee and Khosla Commission

22 June 2006: Mr Sayantan Dasgupta of Mission Netaji (MN) requests Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for authenticated copies of all documents "exhibited before the Netaji Inquiry Committee of 1956 under the chairmanship of Shah Nawaz Khan, and the One-Man Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (1970-74) under the chairmanship of Justice G D Khosla."

30 June 2006: Prompt refusal from MHA. Letter from the Ministry says, "your request cannot be acceded to under Section 8(3) of the Right To Information Act, 2005." In its rush to refuse, the Ministry misinterprets Section 8(3), and ignores a basic rule of the RTI Act - it does not provide any information on the Ministry's appellate authority - which it is legally bound to follow

29 July 2006: MN files a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC), contesting the Ministry"s contention. The complaint, among other things, states that "By no stretch of imagination can these documents be labelled 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" It is the right of a citizen to be able to assess and verify the justification of the conclusions reached by the above mentioned inquiries. This is more relevant as a recent Commission of Inquiry (Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry) has reached diametrically opposite views on the same subject."

3 August 2006: CIC issues notice to the MHA; asks the Ministry to offer its views on MN's complaint within 15 days.

August 2006: MHA can't make up its mind on the ways for denial. It sends two replies. In its reply dated 21 August, it reiterates the 20 year argument (again!), but says if the CIC interprets the provision differently, then it would provide the information "as available", "as per prescribed procedure." It says that the details of the appellate authority were not provided due to "oversight." (As we shall see later, this oversight continues).

In its reply of 25 August, it repeats the 20 year old argument, but retracts the possibility of a different interpretation by the CIC. It adds a new dimension - that Shah Nawaz Committee and Khosla Commission reports do not contain any list of exhibits. Papers relating to these two inquiries were given to Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (JMCI) and the Ministry would need at least two months to "trace out" and "examine" those documents.

30 October 2006: In first hearing before Central Information Commission (CIC), MHA officials feign ignorance about any such exhibits or lists. Information Commissioner A N Tiwari tells MN to specify documents it wants. (It remains unintelligible as to how can MN furnish a list of documents which the Ministry has lost or is hiding!!) MN points out to the report of JMCI which specifically mentions that exhibits of Khosla Commission exist.

November 2006: However, MN manages to get hold of a list - it furnishes a secret list of 202 exhibits used by Khosla Commission and cites reference to exhibits used by Shah Nawaz panel. CIC forwards the list to the Ministry. Ministry is taken by surprise and wants to know from where MN got hold of this list.

12 December 2006: Admitting that there was a list of 202 exhibits, the Ministry officials tell Mr Tiwari that bulk of them were untraceable in the Ministry. Mr Tiwari asks the Ministry to revert in three months time with a detailed response with regard to the list, showing the availability and non-availability/destruction/disappearance status of each and every document.

March 2007: Home Secretary writes a secret letter to CIC saying that release will lead to law and order problem. Thoroughly dissatisfied with the response, Mr Tiwari refers the matter to the full Bench of CIC.

5 June 2007: CIC holds a full-bench hearing; reserves its order.

5 July 2007: Full bench of the CIC passes its order; asks the Ministry to release all documents within three months. In case it doesn't release any document, the Ministry "shall record reasons for such non-disclosure together with the name and designation of the authority arriving at the conclusion of non-disclosure, and submit the same before this Commission not later than three months from the date of the receipt of this order."

November 2007: Home Minister takes the matter to Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs for clearance

December 2007: MHA makes a selective disclosure. 91 out of 202 specified records are released. There is no word on the rest.