Inauguration of the Commonwealth Games 2010 - disclosure of correspondence made with the government of UK would not be in India's national interest and in the interest of friendly relations with that country - CIC: matter is sensitive, no disclosure
1. In his RTI application, the Appellant had sought a variety of information mainly relating to (a) the India's membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, (b) inauguration of the Commonwealth Games 2010 and (c) the efforts made by the Government of India to get back various valuable national heritage artefacts including the Kohinoor Diamond. Between the MEA and the National Archives of India, some information had been given to him. At the appeal stage, the Appellate Authority in the MEA had also provided some further information.
2. During the hearing, the Appellant mainly emphasised on two items of information, namely, one relating to India's membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and the other relating to the controversy arising out of the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games 2010. The respondent, representing the MEA, submitted that, both at the level of the CPIO and the Appellate Authority, much effort had been made to locate the file records relating to the decision taken by the then authorities for accepting the membership of the Commonwealth of Nations but they could not locate any such record except a copy of the London Declaration of 1949 which gives some reference to the willingness of the then Indian Government to become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Appellant argued that it was unlikely that no records for such a momentous decision should exist in the MEA. We tend to agree with him. We believe that there must be some record available somewhere in the government, either in the MEA or in the National Archives, on the subject.
3. The respondent representing the National Archives submitted that the Archives was open to every citizen of India under a statutory mandate and the Appellant was welcome to visit them and search for the desired document. They explained that in the absence of any specific file reference, it would not be possible for them to search for this particular document out of the large number of files and documents stored there. The respondent representing the MEA reiterated that the CPIO concerned had searched in almost all possible divisions in the Ministry including the Indian High Commission in London but could not locate any specific record relating to the subject.
4. In spite of all the efforts that the MEA has already made in this regard, we would still like the CPIO to make one more round of search for the relevant file on this subject and, if found, to provide the copy of the relevant document containing the decision of the Government of India for joining the Commonwealth of Nations. If, by any chance, there is any reference available in the Ministry about the relevant file having been sent to the National Archives, the CPIO should also inform the Appellant about that so that he can look for it these. The CPIO is directed to complete this exercise and intimate the Appellant within 15 working days of receiving this order.
5. The second item of information relates to the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games 2010. The respondent submitted that the correspondence and other records relating to the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games could not be disclosed as it contained extremely sensitive material. The Appellate Authority had, in his order, already given the summary of the facts leading to the opening ceremony. According to the respondent, disclosure of any more information in this regard, specially the correspondence made with the government of the UK, would not be in the India's national interest and in the interest of friendly relations with that country. Looking to the sensitivity of this matter, we appreciate the stand taken by the MEA in this case and would not think that it would be desirable to disclose further details about this.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Sh. Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Ministry of External Affairs, National Archives of India in File No. CIC/SM/A/2013/000780