RTI applicant denied info on pellet guns

A man looks at an X-ray of a relative that shows injuries after being hit by pellets during a protest in Srinagar. File photo

A man looks at an X-ray of a relative that shows injuries after being hit by pellets during a protest in Srinagar. File photo  

An RTI query with the Kolkata-based Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), seeking information about the sales of pump action guns, related ammunition, and their efficacy as a riot-control weapon, has been turned down on the grounds that the information sought is “sensitive defence information” that could prejudicially affect the security interests of the nation.

The application, filed by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a New Delhi-based human rights NGO, comes in the wake of debates over the use of pump action guns, also known as pellet guns, by security forces during the recent turmoil in Kashmir.

Anti-riot arms and ammunition used by paramilitary forces and state police organisations are manufactured by units under the control of the OFB. However, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the OFB turned down the RTI request under section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, which exempts sensitive defence information. Also invoked was section 8 (1) (d) of the Act, which exempts trade secrets, intellectual property or commercial confidence that could “harm the competitive position of a third party” from disclosure.

Mr. Nayak said: “The queries were only about weapons and ammunition used against citizens within the country. Even this information has been denied without showing how India’s ‘security interests’ would be prejudicially affected. It is also not clear which third party’s interests is being protected here, since I had sought information on weapons sold by units run by the OFB, which is a public authority as per the RTI Act.”

Specific questions

Two of the queries in the RTI application pertained specifically to the “12 Bore Pump Action Gun” though, according to media reports, a different variant of the pump action gun may be in use in the Kashmir Valley.

‘In public interest’

The RTI application also sought official records that describe the “physical characteristics and specifications of all weapons and related ammunition manufactured for the purpose of riot control” as well as their “wholesale price and maximum retail price”.

“There is a clear public interest in knowing how much money has been spent on these weapons since they are manufactured with taxes paid by Indian citizens, for use against Indian citizens — not against external enemies,” said Mr. Nayak.

“Strangely enough, the OFB’s website contains detailed specifications of mortars, 155mm guns, machine guns, grenades and rocket bombs. How come there is proactive disclosure about specifications of defence equipment but not of anti-riot weapons used against citizens within the country?”

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