HC allows govt`s plea against Sharm el-Sheikh files inspection

The Delhi HC today allowed a govt petition which challenged a CIC order permitting an RTI activist to inspect files pertaining to the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement between India and Pakistan in Egypt in July last year.

Updated: Jul 23, 2010, 21:21 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today
allowed a government petition which challenged a CIC order
permitting an RTI activist to inspect files pertaining to the
controversial Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement between India
and Pakistan in Egypt in July last year.

The court accepted the Centre`s stand that the
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had not maintained any
record pertaining to the joint statement and disclosure of any
other material would have "large-scale adverse ramification"
for the country`s foreign policy.

The joint statement issued following talks between
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart
Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh in
July last year had sparked off a controversy over a mention of
Balochistan. The then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had
said it could have been a case of "bad drafting".

Upholding the Centre`s position, Justice S Muralidhar
said, "The Court fails to appreciate how the Central
Information Commission(CIC) had given such a direction when
the MEA has taken a consistent stand that there are no
relevant file notings or records pertaining to the information
sought.

"In the circumstance, to allow inspection of relevant
files to locate all information was pointless," the court
said, and dismissed the plea of RTI activist Subhash Chandra
Aggarwal.

The Court order came on the Centre`s petition
challenging the CIC`s January four order on the ground that
the law did not empower the CIC to give such a direction.

The government had said, "India`s relations with
Pakistan are complex and sensitive in nature....There would be
large-scale adverse ramification for India`s foreign policy if
(any material on) such sensitive negotiations were exposed
prematurely to the public domain and subjected to publicity
and media scrutiny".

According to the Centre, "The discussion took place at
the highest political level and making the files available for
inspection could seriously affect the future credibility of
the government at the international bilateral meetings in
matters concerning national security.

"The joint statement was drafted immediately at the
PM-level meeting on the sidelines of the NAM summit", the
ministry had said.

PTI