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Tihar information trip - Commissioner meets inmates who filed RTI appeals

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By BHAVNA VIJ-AURORA in Delhi
  • Published 16.07.08
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New Delhi, July 16: Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah today visited Tihar jail for the first time to meet inmates who had filed applications under the Right to Information Act.

Among the inmates was sacked navy commander Vijender Rana, an accused in the navy war room leak case, who last month had wanted to know from the Intelligence Bureau why he had been arrested.

Another accused in the case, Ravi Shankaran, a nephew of former navy chief Arun Prakash, is still on the run.

Habibullah told The Telegraph Rana’s request on information from the IB had been turned down as the intelligence agency was outside the RTI act’s purview.

“The IB had earlier denied the sought information on the ground of exemption and we upheld the agency’s stand,” he said.

Rana had also filed three other applications. “Two were related and pertained to the report of the board of inquiry instituted by the navy. They wanted access to the report. The decision on this request is pending and would be taken later,” Habibullah said.

The last application, in which Rana had asked for some documents, was upheld by the CIC.

Habibullah said other than Rana’s applications, there were some other pending RTI inquiries that needed to be heard in Tihar.

These were from a former employee of the National Security Council, Shiv Shankar Paul, jailed for leaking information. “No decision has been taken on his applications,” Habibullah said. “They would be taken up later.”

Tihar sources said it was unusual for the information commissioner to visit the jail. “We were told that the CIC wanted to get first-hand information on the cases of those prisoners who have filed RTI applications,” said an official.

Rana was lodged in Tihar after being booked under the Official Secrets Act. Besides Rana and Shankaran, the other accused in the case were Kulbushan Parashar, sacked navy commander V.K. Jha and retired air force wing commander S.L. Surve.

The CBI, which has already filed a chargesheet against the five accused, says they leaked 7,000 pages of classified defence information that had a direct bearing on national security.

The agency had registered the case in March 2006 on a reference from the defence ministry and after probes conducted by the air force and the navy.

In its 250-page chargesheet, the CBI claimed that the accused had entered into criminal conspiracy to collect information related to defence matters.

It said the information was “calculated to be, or might be, or was intended to be, useful to the enemy”.

The agency said the information “related to a matter” whose “disclosure” to unauthorised persons “was prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India and the security of the state”.