New Delhi: The BJP-led government has refused to make public nearly 39 classified files on the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and related matters, in sharp contrast to the demands of disclosure raised by its senior leaders when in Opposition.
In January when the Lok Sabha election campaign was at its peak, the then BJP president Rajnath Singh, during a visit to Cuttack - the birthplace of Netaji - on the occasion of his 117th birth anniversary, had demanded that the UPA government make public the records related to the freedom fighter.
Singh is now the Home Minister.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a recent RTI reply accepted that there were 41 files related to Bose, of which two had been declassified, but refused to disclose them taking a position similar to that of the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government.
"Disclosure of documents contained in these files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. As such, these files are exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) read with Section 8(2) of the Right to Information Act," the PMO said in its reply to RTI activist Subhash Agrawal.
Singh had claimed during the election campaign that there was larger public interest in the disclosure of the documents, but the PMO under Modi seems not to be in agreement as is evident from the reply which considered the larger public interest disclosure clause - section 8(2) - of the RTI Act but chose to withhold the documents.
The section 8(2) says, "Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section(1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests."
"The entire country is impatient to know as to how Netaji died and under what circumstances," Singh had said, releasing a book on the eve of Netaji's birth anniversary in Cuttack on January 22.
The PMO said in its reply, "Yes this office has some files
related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. A list of files unclassified/classified/declassified with number and subject matter relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is enclosed."
The PMO gave a list of 41 files of which two related to INA treasure and appointment of a inquiry commission to go into circumstances of death have been declassified and sent to the National Archives of India.
The office, in its response, admitted that there are 10 files which are unclassified but still invoked exemption clause of section 8(1) to withhold them from disclosure.
Four 'Top Secret' files which are held by the PMO include miscellaneous correspondence with and about widow and daughter of Netaji, transfer of his ashes to India and two files on the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry looking into his death/disappearance, it said.
There are 20 files classified as 'Secret' including one related to acquisition of Jankinath Bhavan - birth place of Netaji - by then Orissa government, five files of late sixties on the appointment of inquiry committee to go into the circumstances of "death" of Netaji, correspondence with and about his wife and daughter, another inquiry commission to look into treasure of INA, two references from Samar Guha, MP on his disappearance, Bharat Ratna award to Netaji and number of files on his death/disappearance among others.
The rest of the files are categorised as 'Classified' which include issues related to mortal remains kept in Rankoji temple in Japan while on the rest no particular subject is mentioned.
Commenting on the development, RTI applicant Agrawal said, "Public interest definitely overweighs the protected as several commissions/committees have been formed by the Union government to probe mystery in death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose."
"The CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) did not even specify name of the country with which relations are likely to be prejudicially affected," he said.