Manipur violence: Centre refuses to give information in reply to RTI, cites ‘national security’
Manipur violence: Centre refuses to give information in reply to RTI, cites 'national security'

New Delhi (Agency): The Union Home Ministry and Rashtrapati Bhavan have reportedly refused the disclose the inputs they received from the Manipur government during the ongoing ethnic violence in the northeastern state, according to the response received to RTI interventions.

Right to Information (RTI) activist Venkatesh Nayak had sought information on the N Biren Singh government’s inputs to the Centre as per the urgent clause of section 7(1) of the RTI Act, 2005, which says that when information is sought for “concerns the life or liberty of a person”, it shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request.

Additionally, Nayak had sought information under Rule 10 of the Transaction of Business Rules, 1961, which states that periodical papers must be submitted to the President including fortnightly reports on internal political situations etc. of the state or union territory, as well as weekly intelligence summaries from the Director of Intelligence Bureau.

Nayak told The Wire that since he had brought the Transaction of Business Rules, 1961, to the public forum in the past, he was “aware of the reporting requirement that the govt has to the highest constitutional office in India.”

“I was hopeful that the government might be transparent about its own internal deliberations in Manipur,” he was quoted as saying.

Nayak had filed two RTI interventions – to the home ministry and Rashtrapati Bhavan in July. He wrote in the Deccan Herald that the Rashtrapati Bhavan rejected the RTI application two weeks later on grounds of national security.

The MHA, replying a month later, also refused to disclose information citing Section 8(1)(a), which states that disclosure of such information 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; and Section 24, which states that nothing contained in the Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations.

“A government which exhorts its citizens to perform their duties before demanding their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to life and liberty, must lead by example. Transparency is the first step towards responsible governance. Opacity-by-design makes it difficult to fix accountability for the omissions and inaction of public functionaries,” he wrote in Herald.

Nayak told The Wire that he had received a revised reply from Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29 explaining that the prime minister and home minister had met the President twice each between May and July.

Several activists have filed RTI interventions regarding the Manipur violence, that has entered its fifth month now and as per reports, almost all of the responses have one statement in common: “No information available”.

More than 160 people have died, according to official records, and at least 60,000 have been reportedly displaced. amid the clashes between the dominant Meitei community and the Kuki-Zo hill tribes. The Supreme Court intervened to take stock of the deteriorated law and order situation in the state. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had condemned the violence saying, “Time running out for us, there is a great need to have a healing touch in the state.” (Courtesy: Outlook)