New Delhi, May 29: The chief information commissioner (CIC) has upheld the Union home ministry's decision to keep the contents of the Naga Framework Accord under wraps on the premise that disclosure could "prejudicially affect" India's sovereignty, integrity and strategic interests.
With the CIC ruling in the home ministry's favour, the only other option for the petitioner, Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an NGO working for the practical realisation of human rights, is to appeal in the high court or hope that the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) puts the document, signed in August 2015, out in public domain.
Earlier efforts by MPs to get the government to table the Accord in Parliament had also come to naught. While announcing the signing of the Accord on August 3, 2015, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government's official statement had said: " Within this framework agreement, details and execution plan will be released shortly".
The Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, has time and again reminded the government, particularly during the recent Manipur Assembly elections, about this undertaking but to no avail.
In turning down the petition, the CIC invoked Section 8(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, refusing to entertain the grounds provided by the petitioner that disclosing the details would be in public interest.
Section 8(1)(a) says, "Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen information disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence."
One of the grounds cited by the petitioner was that the Union home ministry has been repeatedly extending the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, in Arunachal Pradesh and the adjoining parts of Assam, citing alleged illegal and criminal activities of the NSCN (I-M) and other Naga militant groups as major reasons.
"NSCN (I-M) is the party with which the Naga Framework Accord was signed in August 2015. So I argued that the people have the right to seek clarity about the official policy of the government of India towards militant groups that challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. This is especially important in view of the zero tolerance policy towards such groups repeatedly announced by senior members of the NDA government," Nayak said.
Add to this the fact that the contents of the Naga Accord were part of public debate during Assembly elections and NSCN (I-M) spokespersons have been periodically making claims about its contours. One such claim pertained to the government agreeing to the NSCN (I-M)'s demand for a greater Nagaland. This was promptly denied by the government, resulting in considerable speculation on the fate of the Accord.
The official statement of August 3, 2015, had said: "The government and the NSCN successfully concluded the dialogue on Naga political issue, which has existed for six decades."
The government's interlocutor for Naga peace talks, R.N. Ravi, had signed for "the government while the NSCN (I-M)'s signatories were its chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Th. Muivah.
The CIC was set up by the Centre in 2005 under the Right to Information Act to act upon complaints from those individuals whose could not submit applications to or whose requests were denied by a central public information officer or a state public information officer.