New Delhi: The Central Information
Commission has directed the Centre to disclose the copy of
"merger agreement" executed between the then Nawab of Bhopal
and Government of India in 1949 and the list of his properties
as mentioned in the document.
Rejecting the arguments of Home Ministry that it was a
personal information, a full bench of the Commission felt that
since the records were more than 20-years-old they cannot be
exempted from disclosure under the transparency law.
The case relates to an RTI application filed by one Z U
Alvi seeking copy of the letter dated August 15, 1955 from
Nawab Hamidullah Khan of Bhopal to Govind Ballabh Pant, along
with enclosures and another letter dated written in 1956 with
enclosures like gift deed of "Riaz Manzil" by Nawab of Bhopal
to his wife Aftab Jahan Begum.
The Commission found that Supreme Court`s 11-judge bench
in its decision in Madhav Rao Jivaji Rao Scindia Bahadur of
Gwalior versus Government of India has quoted extensively from
the agreement that Nawab Hamidullah Khan entered with the
Centre in 1949.
"This leaves us without even an iota of doubt to infer
that the Apex Court had the material before it on the basis of
which it made those observations notwithstanding the fact that
the case before them was not specifically pertaining to the
state of Bhopal.
"...it leaves no doubt that the contents of Bhopal
Merger Agreement and the enclosures thereto are public
documents. Hence, in the spirit of the RTI Act, such documents
should also be furnished to the Appellant," it held.
The bench of transparency panel comprising Chief
Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information
Commissioners Shailesh Gandhi and Sushma Singh also rejected
Home Ministry`s contention that private properties of former
rulers of princely states are not to be disclosed to the
public being unpublished document.
The Ministry had also shown a Lok Sabha reply given by
the then Home Minister Y B Chavan in 1967 stating that details
of the property recognised as the private property of the
ruler should not be a matter for public disclosure.
The Commission also rejected this argument citing a
communication from Lok Sabha secretariat which said the reply
pertained only to properties of rulers of Indore and Gwalior.
"Procure the documents from the National Archives by
giving them the proper reference number to identify the
document numbered by them, if they do not have the custody of
documents at present, and supply the same to the Applicant.
"In case, the efforts to trace the records and documents
bear no fruit, the Ministry of Home Affairs will file an
affidavit for the perusal of the Commission regarding the
efforts made along with the instructions issued to trace the
records," the Commission directed.