MHA refuses to disclose info on Guru`s mercy plea

The Home Ministry has refused to disclose information related to processing of clemency plea of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

New Delhi: The Home Ministry has refused to
disclose information related to processing of clemency plea of
Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru citing impact on national
security and exemption given to cabinet documents under the
Right to Information Act.

While withholding information, Home Ministry has cited
section 8(1)(a),(g) and (i) of the RTI Act which exempts
disclosure of three categories of information.

Section 8(1)(a) exempts 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.

Section 8(1)(g) allows exemption of information which
would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or
identify the source of information or assistance given in
confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.

The last section 8(1)(i) is related to exemption given to
cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the
Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers.

The Central Information Commission, however, had allowed
the disclosure of file noting related to action taken on
mercy pleas filed by prisoners sentenced to death as the
matter related to life and liberty of these people.

The Home Ministry had earlier provided details of file
noting on various mercy pleas filed with the President.

Activist Subhash Agrawal, who filed the application, said
he was surprised with "the sudden change of attitude" of the
Ministry in citing these exemption clauses while denying the
information in "select cases".


The Ministry has also refused to disclose information
about the decision taken to reject the mercy petition of those
convicted in assasination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi --
Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan -- citing section 8(1)(a),(b)
and (g) of the RTI Act.

Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI exempts documents which have
been expressly forbidden to be published by any court or
tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of

The trio, charged with criminal conspiracy and execution
of the suicide attack plot, had filed mercy petition before
the President after confirmation of death sentence by the
Supreme Court in the year 2000.

It was rejected by the President in August this year. The
Home Ministry had sent its opinion on June 21, 2005 which was
called back for review on February 23, 2011 and was again
submitted on March 8 this year.

Agrawal in his appeal before higher authorities of the
Home Ministry said, "In earlier all cases, file-notings on
mercy-petitions have always been provided without any hitch.
Moreover it is unjustified that exemption may be sought only
for some selected cases while file-noting are allowed on rest
other cases."

He said the CPIO has also not mentioned any court-order
prohibiting disclosure of file-noting as claimed by the CPIO
under section 8(1)(b) of RTI Act.

Agrawal in his appeal argued that it is a matter of great
public-interest and involving life and liberty of certain
individuals that too at a time when demand for abolishing
death-sentence is being made world-wide including in India.


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