After a series of controversies and war of words, yet another incident has now given ammunition to the opposition to fire fresh salvos at the Modi led government. The Ministry of External Affairs has refused to answer an RTI query on the issue of facilitating UK travel documents for former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi – claim that some queries didn’t fall within the ambit of the legislation, while “no information was available” for the rest with the office of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
It is to be noted that the questions to the RTI were exactly the same seven queries put forward by former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram at a press conference in Chennai on June 18. Interstingly, the RTI application was filed online on the same day.
The ministry gave a response within eight days. “Kindly note that the office of External Affairs minister (EAM) has informed that the questions in Serial 1 to 3 of your RTI does not seem to fall under the purview of the RTI act, 2005,” said the reply of MEA in its letter dated June 26.
The three questions were on why Sushma Swaraj had not advised Lalit Modi to apply for an Indian travel document to go to Portugal, and not facilitate an UK travel document. It also asked why Swaraj did not insist on Modi’s return to India as a condition for issuing a temporary Indian travel document?
The RTI also sought replies on why the government was not releasing the letters exchanged between the Indian finance minister and UK chancellor of exchequer George Osborne.
As per the last four questions, the MEA said, “no information was available with the MEA’s office”.
The MEA also stated that it was transferring the RTI application to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs and MEA’s own Consular, Passport and Visa division to give their individual responses with regard to the four questions.
Again, all the four questions were in the same language used by Chidambaram, which asked for proof and file notings on the subject of the ministry not moving the Supreme Court after the Delhi high court revoked the cancellation of Modi’s passport.
The questions posed also sought to know whether India ever objected to the grant of a long term visa or residency permit to Lalit Modi, who had appeared before the Enforcement Directorate.