With tags of ‘patriots’ and ‘anti-nationals’ being at the centre of debate, the Central Information Commission has asked the Home Ministry to make public the list of people who are facing sedition charges for indulging in alleged anti-national activities.
The transparency watchdog’s directives came on a petition by Moradabad-resident Pawan Aggarwal, who had sought from the Prime Minister’s Office through an RTI application the list of persons declared as “martyrs” and “anti-nationals”.
Aggarwal’s petition was forwarded by the PMO to the Home Ministry which responded that there was no list available with it in which people were categorised as “patriots”, “martyrs” or anti-nationals, hence the information cannot be provided.
The Ministry had said that it did not categorise any person as a “patriot”, “traitor” or a “martyr” based on certain yardsticks and specifications or maintained any data of such categories of persons.
“The respondent further submitted that under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, a public authority is under obligation to provide an applicant only that information which exists in the records and is held by or under the control of that authority,” Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava noted in the order.
During the hearing before Bhargava, Aggarwal contended that sedition cases have been filed against a number of persons.
Hence, MHA should be having details about persons who are being involved in anti-national activities. Similarly, the Freedom Fighters Division, MHA will also be having information about freedom fighters/martyrs, he argued.
“The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that as per National Crime Bureau Research (NCRB) 47 cases pertaining to sedition were registered in 2014. Hence, information about persons indulging in anti-national activities should be available,” Bhargava said.
Bhargava said in case the information was not available with MHA, the RTI application should have been transferred to the public authority which holds such information.
The Information Commissioner pointed out that he had come to know from another case that Indian Council for Historical Research has been working on a project of the Culture Ministry entitled as “Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle (1857 to 1947)”.
“The Commission had also observed that MHA should have a credible repository of information on freedom fighters. The Commission, therefore, directs the CPIO, MHA to provide point wise information as available with them to the appellant and point(s) for which the information is not available with them, forward the RTI application to the public authority concerned,” Bhargava directed.