SIC asks him to make written submissions within five days

A.G. Perarivalan, convict on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, on Thursday challenged the stand of the Tamil Nadu Prison Department in not furnishing information sought by him under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the ground that it would be detriment to India’s relations with a foreign country.

The convict presented his case before the State Information Commission through video-conferencing in the presence of Chief Information Commissioner K.S. Sripathi, Information Commissioner S.F. Akbar and Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Prisons) A.G. Maurya, sources close to his family said.

Pointing out that no explanation was given as to how divulging information on his mercy petitions would affect India’s relations with a neighbouring country, Perarivalan referred to an affidavit of the State government in which it was stated that a majority of public interest was against his death penalty.

“Under Article 8 (2) of the Act whenever there was a conflict of interest between disclosure and non-disclosure, public interest should supersede and be honoured…hence the information pertaining to the mercy petitions should be provided in larger public interest,” the sources quoted him as saying.

He also challenged the refusal of information regarding the visit of research scholar Reena Mary George to Vellore central prison where she interviewed convicts in 2011. The convict said the Supreme Court had ruled that a special law should always supersede a general law and hence in the instant case the RTI should supersede Section 473 of Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983, under which the information was refused.

After the hour-long hearing, the SIC asked Perarivalan to submit his arguments in writing within five days. When contacted by The Hindu, prison authorities preferred not to comment on their arguments or submissions before the SIC.

Earlier, the Tamil Nadu Prison Department had submitted to the SIC that information sought by Perarivalan could not be disclosed as it would “certainly entail trans-border ramifications with far-reaching consequence which cannot be visualised now.”

In the written submission, DIG Mr. Maurya said that the information sought by Perarivalan was refused under Rule 473 of the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983, read with a section in the RTI Act. 

Those grounds apart, there was yet another important legal ground underlying the refusal of information.

Referring to a clause under Section 8 (1) (a) of the Act, he said if disclosure was detrimental to India’s relations with a foreign country, such information should be refused. 

The present case pertained to India’s relations with a neighbouring country, though it might appear to be a case involving the life and liberty of an individual. “Certainly the paramount consideration would be the preservation of relations with a foreign State and the right of the individual has to subserve in the larger interest of the State,” he said.

The convict had sought to know the status of his mercy petitions filed every year between 2006 and 2009.

The first mercy petition filed in 2000 was rejected by the President in 2011.

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