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Explain reasons for withholding Jinnah's speeches: CIC to govt

The CIC said that the time had come when all concerned must decide what information relating to pre-independence period should be made available to public.

Press Trust Of India

Updated:June 5, 2013, 5:20 PM IST
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Explain reasons for withholding Jinnah's speeches: CIC to govt
The CIC said that the time had come when all concerned must decide what information relating to pre-independence period should be made available to public.

New Delhi: The CIC has asked the government to take a view on disclosure of two speeches made by Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah during pre-independence era which are in the archives of All India Radio and explain the reasons for withholding them if it intends to do so.

Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said more than 60 years after the country's independence, time has come when all concerned must decide what information relating to pre-independence period should be made available to public.

"It is easy for any public authority to take the stand that everything relating to Pakistan or the leaders who went over to Pakistan should be kept secret or confidential and invoke the provisions of Section 8(1)(a) and not disclose the details. This will be a regressive stand," Mishra said.

Students of history and members of general public interested in knowing about the most important period of India's history would always like to have access to such valuable records, he said. "It is the duty of the state to make such records available freely to the public so that the citizenry becomes informed and the research scholars get valuable material," Mishra said in his order.

The case relates to RTI application filed by activist Subhash Agrawal who sought copy of speeches given by Jinnah during pre-independence days which are held in the archives of All India Radio. Prasar Bharti first claimed that they are trying to trace the recording, and later informed that these recordings cannot be disclosed citing section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

The clause cited by Prasar Bharti allows to withhold 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.

The Commissioner directed the All India Radio to dig out its archives in next months and pro-actively publish a list of all the recordings of the leaders, who have gone to Pakistan after Independence, on its website which can be made available to public without having to invoke any exemption provisions of the RTI Act.

"Needless to say, while doing this care must be taken to ensure maximum disclosure, a period of 60 years having blunted many of the raw feelings of those days even if some of these recordings might contain such references," he said. During the hearing, Prasar Bharti said only two recordings of Jinnah were found in their archives - one dated June 3, 1947 and another undated.

It said they have been referred to the I&B Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry to elicit their views on the contents of these recordings. Taking strong exception to the delay in furnishing the information, Mishra said, "since almost a year has gone by since the date of the RTI application, it is high time that the authorities take a final view. Therefore, we now direct the CPIO to ensure that a final view is taken on the contents of the recordings is taken on the contents of those recordings and communicated to the appellant within two months".

Mishra directed the government that in case a decision is taken to withhold the recordings an order explaining detailed reasons must be passed and communicated to Agrawal. If decision to disclose is taken, it must be given free of cost, he said. He also directed to make public any letter received from any Pakistani agency which might have requested the copies of Jinnah's speech from All India Radio.

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