CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Complaint No.CIC/WB/C/2008/00630, 631 & 633 all dated 2.7.2008 Right to Information Act 2005 - Section 18
Complainant - Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh Respondent - National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS)
These are three complaints in the following files, all of which refer to information sought regarding the report of a Group of Ministers (GOM) on National Security constituted in 2001. They have therefore been clubbed for processing by this Commission: File No. CIC/WB/C/2008/00630: This application dated 22.4.08 was addressed to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
File No. CIC/WB/C/2008/00631: This application was addressed to Rajya Sabha.
File No. CIC/WB/C/2008/00633: This application is addressed to Lok Sabha Secretariat.
All these applications were transferred from the public authority to which they were addressed to finally find their way through Cabinet Sectt. to the National Security Council Sectt. In all three cases, the National Security Council Sectt. has refused the information sought on the following grounds:
"The information in respect of paras 1,5,6,7,12,13,14 & 15 of the above cited application with which this Secretariat is concerned cannot be supplied under Rule 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act, 2005 as disclosure of such information would prejudicially affect the security and strategic interests of the country."
The applications addressed to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats received a response with regard to part of the information sought informing appellant Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh that the report of the GOM on National Security had not been laid on the table of the House. Against both these responses, Gen. Singh had moved his appeal to First Appellate Authority, enclosing newspaper cuttings and indicating that this report had been so laid in the year 2001. Whereas both these appeals were responded to, by the Rajya Sabha on 30.6.08 and by the Lok Sabha on 2.7.08, the responses had not been received at the time the complaint was received by us.
The complaint was heard on 10.10.08. The following are present: Appellant
Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh
Mr. Har Mohan Rai
Mr. Jayakumar T., DS-II, LSS
Mr. Harish Chander, DS-II, LSS
Mr. Mayaram, Sr. Ex. Asstt., LSS
Mr. Siva Pradhan, Ex. Asstt. LSS
Mr. S. K. Bhatnagar, DS, MHA
Mr. G. Rajeev, US (A & CPIO, NSCS
The Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha Secretariats have submitted copies of the Decision of first Appellate Authorities in both these public authorities. Appellant Gen. Singh agreed that he has now received these orders. Shri S. K. Bhatnagar Dy. Secy. & CPIO MHA has submitted his response as follows:
"As regards the complaint that the application was transferred to several addressees without indicating the specific question they were to answer, it is submitted that the undersigned, as the coordinating CPIO, is not in possession of the GoM recommendations and, therefore, not aware as to which portion concerned a particular CPIO. In the absence of such information, the undersigned could not have indicated the Para numbers concerning various CPIOs. Obviously the CPIOs concerned who are dealing with the subject would themselves respond in respect of matters falling within their jurisdiction.
It may kindly be seen from the submissions made above that the undersigned has diligently fulfilled its role as a coordinating CPIO and there is no basis for the allegations leveled by the complainant. Commission may like to pass such orders as deemed fit."
Shri G. Rajeev, US (A) and CPIO, National Security Council Secretariat submitted a copy of a Gazette Notification of 8th Oct., 2008 which states as follows: "GSR (E)-In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 24 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (22 of 2005), the Central Government hereby makes the following further amendments in the Second Schedule to the said Act, namely:-
In the Second Schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005, after serial number 21 and the entry relating thereto, the following serial number and the entry shall be added namely:-
"22, National Security Council Secretariat."
He also pleaded that the official who had handled this matter is at present on leave and an adjournment may be granted to allow him to present his objection to this disclosure. Appellant Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh has no objection to an adjournment.
Whereas we found that the Lok Sabha Sectt. and the MHA are no longer involved in providing the information sought by appellant Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh, the complaint against them can be deemed to have been resolved. However, with regard to the National Security Council, we find that their plea that they are a public authority excluded from coverage of the RTI by the Gazette notification cited above, we find that the Notification is dated 8.10.'08. The NSCS was therefore not listed in the Second Schedule on the date that appellant Gen. Singh had moved his application under RTI. They were therefore directed to appear before us together with the copy of the original GOM Report for our perusal to take a decision on the merits of its exemption u/s 8(1)(a) as pleaded by the NSCS in responding to the application of Gen. V. K. Singh. For this purpose, the hearing was adjourned to 22nd Oct., 2008 at 10.00 a.m. Consequent to the above decision, the following appeared before us on 20.11.08: Appellant
Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh
Mr. K.K. Majumdar, U.S.
Gp. Cpt. (Retd) R. ohan, SDS (A) NSCS
Mr. G. Rajeev, US (A) / CPIO NSCS
Mr. B. K. Sahu, Dir. (Pers), MHA
Shri G Rajeev, US submitted that this matter of disclosure of the GOM has been referred to the highest authority in NSCS to deliberate whether the exemption from disclosure sought is appropriate. To this appellant Gen. Singh submitted that the full report even the edited portions are in the hands of the public. He submitted copies of articles printed in various newspapers by Shri Parveen Swami of Front Line and Ms. Swati Chaturvedi of Hindustan Times and PIB indicating they are either in possession of the full report or have seen it.
To determine whether infact the information classified as top secret, as per submission of the NSCS, is actually already in the public domain and, if so, by what means, another hearing was scheduled inviting Shri Parveen Swami, Ms. Swati Chaturvedi and representative of PIB to share their information with this Commission, after which a decision would be taken as to whether the plea of respondents that they may be given another six
weeks adjournment is to be accepted. The matter was to be heard on 2.12.2008 at 10.30 p.m. The following then appeared before us on 2.12.2008: Shri Manoj Pandey, ADG, PIB
Ms. Alkesh Tyagi, AD, PIB
Mr. R. Mohan, SDS, NSCS
Mr. G. Rajeev, US & CPIO, NSCS
Shri G. Rajeev, NSCS made a written submission, agreeing to part disclosure as follows:
No. RTI query Reply of NSCS
1. The dates on which the task forces The Task Force on Border Mgt. set up by the GOM finalized their submitted its report on 29.8.2000; Reports
The Task Force on Intelligence
Apparatus and Internal Security
submitted its report on 29.9.2000;
The Task Force on Mgt. of
Defence submitted its Report on
2. When was the Report of the GOM The GOM submitted their report on National Security submitted to the on "Reforming the National Govt. of India (as per his RTI Security System" to PM on Application dated 28.4.08 originally 26.2.2001. addressed to the CPIO, Cab. Sec.).
When was the Report of the GOM NSCS do not have any on National Security tabled in the information on this query under Rajya Sabha? (as per his RTI Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act. Application dated 28.4.08 originally
addressed to the CPIO, RS Sec.).
When was the Report of the GOM NSCS do not have any on National Security tabled in the information on this query under Lok Sabha (as per his RTI Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act. application dated 28.4.08 originally
addressed to the CPIO, Cab. Sec.)
3. Was the Report discussed by the The report was considered and Cabinet before being tabled in the
approved by the Cabinet
Parliament? (as per his RTI Committee on Security on application dated 28.4.08 originally
11.5.2001. NSCS do not possess
addressed to the CPIO, Cab. Sect.).
any information as to whether the
report has been tabled in the
Was the Report discussed in the NSCS do not have any RS? The dates on which the information on this query under debates took place may please be Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act.
provided? (as per his RTI
application dated 28.4.08 originally
addressed to the CPIO, RS Sectt.).
Was the Report discussed in the NSCS do not have any LS? The dates on which the information on this quer6y under debates took place may please be Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act. provided? (As per his RTI
application dated 28.4.08 originally
addressed to the CPIO, LS Sectt.)
4. The details of the Parliamentary sub- NSCS do not have any committees, which examined the information on this quer6y under Report, with dates, Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act. recommendations and action taken.
5. It is noticed that many parts of the This is only an observation. Report contain security deletions.
Some of these are (Details listed out
in the RTI application).
6. The reasons for these deletions, and The CCS approved the Security the agency on whose deletions on grounds of recommendations they were carried implications on national security. out, may please be provided in The deletions were recommended respect of each deletion. by various Govt. departments concerned with various aspects of
national security. Therefore, the
information cannot be provided
under section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI
Act. Moreover, the information
relates to Third Party in terms of
Section 11 of the RTI Act.
7. The four major divisions of the report This deletion was as per the are Internal Security (page 41 to 57); recommendation of the GOM Intelligence apparatus (page 16-40); accepted by the CCS. Border Management (page 58 to
96); and Management of Defence
(page 97 to 117). The entire chapter
on Intelligence has been deleted.
However, there is only one minor
deletion in the chapter on Internal
Security dealing with archaic laws.
Similarly, there is only one minor
deletion in the Chapter on Defence
Mgt. dealing with Military Civil
From Section 3 of the Official
Secrets Act, it is amply clear that
Defence matters are considered
more sensitive than others. The
reasons for deletion of the entire
chapter on Intelligence when there
are almost no deletions in the
chapter on Defence may please be
Shri Manoj Pande, ADGM PIB submitted a copy of a press release of 23.5.01, released by the Chairman of the GOM Shri L.K. Advani on that date. He also submitted copies of record of Hindustan Times of 24th May, 2001 and Times of India of 24th May, 2001, in both of which there is a mention of "Formal Release of the GOM Report on National Security". Since neither Shri Praveen Swami nor Ms. Swati Chaturvedi is present, it is not possible to ascertain whether in fact the full report was actually released. Even were it in the hands of these individuals, their failure to appear would imply either that they are not in possession of the documents in question or that they are with them through sources other than bonafide, neither of which would be cause for ordering release by the NSCS under the RTI Act, 2005. However, representatives of PIB affirmed that no such report other than the press release displayed was received by them. It must, therefore, be assumed that reference to the release of the GOM Report in these two press reports is in fact a reference to the PIB release of the Report on "Reforming the National Security System".
In light of the above, we accept the request of Shri G. Rajeev, US & CPIO, NSCS that time is allowed to the National Security Council Secretariat to deliberate whether the exemption from disclosure sought is appropriate. This will be in keeping with the requirement of exemption from disclosure u/s 8(1) (a). It is the NSCS that as an institution is assigned to determine whether or not, the information contained in GOM with the release of information contained in GOM would "prejudicially affect" the security and strategic interest of the State. If judiciously arrived at, any such decision cannot be substituted by our own.
With the above discussion, it is now decided as follows:
a) A copy of the PIB release received from Shri ADG PIB will be given to appellant Shri V. K. Singh together with a copy of this decision notice forthwith.
b) CPIO, NSCS and Shri Rajeev may proceed to issue replies to the RTI queries of appellant Maj. Gen. Singh as addressed and quoted by us above, in response to his RTI request, within one week of the date of issue of this Decision Notice.
c) The NSCS give due deliberation to the requirement for classifying the GOM report within the time requested, and based on such decision may either issue or refuse a copy to appellant Maj. Gen. V. K. Singh with the condition that if it is refused, reasons for so refusing will be provided to appellant Maj. Gen. Singh.
With this notice, the three appeals under our consideration are disposed of. Reserved in the hearing this decision is announced on this 3rd day of December, 2008.
Chief Information Commissioner
Authenticated true copy, additional copies of order shall be supplied against application and payment of the charge prescribed under the Act to the CPIO of this Commission.
(Pankaj K. P. Shreyaskar)