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Cops play security card against RTI

Ranchi, June 17: Jharkhand police have refused reply to a Right to Information Act (RTI) application seeking the number of primary and secondary schools occupied by paramilitary forces.

Though the state information panel asked the home department to furnish the information on April 28, the police refused to divulge the details as it could “hamper the state’s security” and “harm life and property of people”.

In the reply to the application filed by state general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Shashibhushan Pathak, director-general of police (human rights) Ramlakhan Prasad said: “As the information is related to the life and property of the common masses, disclosure of the information is exempted under section 8(a) and section 8(g) of the RTI.”

The sections state that information affecting the sovereignty, security and interests of India or endanger a life can be exempted from the RTI Act.

Police spokesperson R.K. Mallick said Pathak was free to appeal. “This is the view of the police headquarters. If the applicant disagrees, he can appeal,” said Mallick.

But the state information commission is the highest appellate in RTI matters.

Paramilitary forces occupy several schools, especially in rural areas, as they have been deployed to fight Naxalites and do not have other place to stay. Though it is common knowledge in a given area where the security personnel are put, the number of schools under occupation is not know.

Beside the number of schools, Pathak had also wanted to know which government order allowed the forces to occupy the schools. “I fail to understand how the information I have demanded would hamper the state’s security,” said Pathak, pointing out that he had only wanted the numbers.

The PUCL member said the government was violating the fundamental right to education by stationing paramilitary forces in schools. “As the state has enough funds to tackle Naxalites, it can put up tents for the forces. Why should it take away the space of children in schools?” he asked.

Even the Jharkhand State Information Commission has refused to accept the excuse of the police. “The argument of the state police is not acceptable. The police have to provide the information sought,” said state information commissioner Gangotri Kujur.

Pathak is not accept the explanation of the police as he has come a long way seeking this information.

He had filed the application under the RTI Act at the directorate of primary education in April 2007. When he did not get the details, he moved the office of the deputy director of the directorate of primary education in December 2007. When this attempt also failed to bear fruit, Pathak approached the state information commission.

Then came the reply from the human resource development department that the occupation of school buildings by paramilitary forces concerns the home department. The state information commission asked the home department to provide Pathak with the information but only got a refusal in reply.

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