New Delhi: The Prime Minister's Office has told the Central Information Commission that it cannot declassify files related to freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose as it will adversely affect relations with foreign countries.
During the hearing before the CIC yesterday, the PMO admitted that it has files related to Bose but did not give any specifics and submitted that they cannot be declassified keeping in mind the relations with foreign countries.
The top office cited section 8(1)(a) which allows the government to withhold 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.
RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, who had sought declassification of documents pertaining to Bose, made a strong plea before the Commission citing section 8(2) of the RTI Act which allows exempted records to be disclosed if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
"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 Act says.
Agrawal said foreign relations cannot be affected as Bose allegedly went missing 70 years ago.
Chief Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma has reserved his order in the matter.
Agrawal urged the CIC to seek written submission on rejection of declassification plea from the PMO but it was turned down by Sharma.
Section 8(3) of the RTI Act also allows disclosure of information withheld under Section 8(1), as is the present case, if the information related to any event which happened 20 years before the request it made.
"Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under secton 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section:
"Provided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act," the Act says.