India-Pakistan 1963 talks: CIC to see if files stay secretApril 13th, 2010 - 11:30 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Central Information Commission (CIC) will “revisit” the material regarding talks between foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in 1963 to decide if it can be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The decision came on an application filed by journalist Kuldip Nayar who had sought information from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) about the talks between the then foreign ministers of India and Pakistan - Swaran Singh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - in the wake of India-China war in October 1962.
Nayar approached the CIC after the MEA denied the information, stating it is in “top secret” files and cannot be revealed.
Considering the “sensitivity of the information, in view of the ongoing talks between the two nations, the said information could not be divulged at this point of time,” the ministry told the CIC.
“After hearing the detailed arguments of the parties, the commission is of the considered opinion that the contents of the files (in the eight volumes) need to be revisited to decide whether all or part of the information contained in the said files are sensitive enough to be kept confidential or whether the same can be disclosed under provisions of the RTI Act, 2005,” the bench of CIC chief Wajahat Habibullah and information commissioners Satyanand Mishra and Annapurna Dixit ruled Monday.
“More important, if an exercise has indeed been undertaken for declassification as contended by respondent in the hearing, whether a conscious decision has been taken not to declassify the information sought at a sufficiently responsible decision making level of government and if so, the reasons for arriving at such a decision,” the order said.
“For this purpose, the commission decided that the records containing the information sought by the appellant need to be perused by the commission and the same be produced before the commission on April 29,” it said.
During the hearing March 17, Nayar contended that when he sought the same information from the concerned authorities in Pakistan, he had been denied it simply because of the absence of any such agreement between India and Pakistan to disclose the information to an Indian national and only a Pakistani national could have access to the information.
Nayar wondered that when Pakistani authorities “had no objection to parting with the information, which contained Pakistan’s viewpoint” then why the same information was treated with such high levels of secrecy so as to be classified as top secret here.
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Tags: annapurna, china war, conscious decision, dixit, foreign ministers, habibullah, india and pakistan, india china, india pakistan, information commission, information commissioners, ministers of india, ministry of external affairs, mishra, nayar, responsible decision, rti act 2005, swaran singh, wajahat, zulfikar ali bhutto