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Agra jail denies RTI request on Kashmiri detainees

Agra Central Prison has refused to provide information about detainees from Jammu and Kashmir who have been shifted there. It has denied a Right to Information (RTI) request on grounds that it is “third-party” information, and that it may endanger someone or identify informers.

Earlier, the Home Ministry had also denied a RTI request on the shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, stating that it had no information on orders issued to detain political leaders or to curb telecom, Internet and transport networks in the State.

Both requests were filed by RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak. In the wake of news reports of several hundred Kashmiri detainees having been shifted to prisons in Uttar Pradesh in August, Mr. Nayak had asked the Agra Central Prison for full details on prisoners from J&K, and the conditions under which they were being held in the prison. Arguing that this information concerned the life and liberty of these individuals, he invoked Section 7(1) of the RTI Act and sought a response within 48 hours.

Instead, he received a response 20 days later, with the prison’s public information officer denying his request on the grounds that it was “third-party” information and citing Section 8(1)(g) of the Act, which allows exemptions for “information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes”.

“To argue that the lives of detenues, who are housed in a Central Prison with high-level security measures already in place, would be endangered by disclosing their names and addresses is absurd,” said Mr. Nayak, dismissing the reasons for denial. “[Concern] that the identity of informers will be revealed does not apply to the present RTI application as I have only sought information about people who are already being held in prison.” He added that the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, requires full transparency about arrests and detainees, and hence such data could not be considered as confidential, third party information.

Mr. Nayak recalled Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement last week that the government wished to reduce the need for RTI by its commitment to proactive transparency. “It looks like these transparency commitments simply do not percolate down to the ‘last mile’ in U.P. where transparency and accountability is required the most,” asserted the RTI activist.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 12:06:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/agra-jail-denies-rti-request-on-kashmiri-detainees/article29714473.ece

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