CRPF told to share inquiry report on Tamil Nadu officer’s death

CIC overrules exemption claim, directs force to provide details to the petitioner who lost his son

April 05, 2023 07:44 pm | Updated 07:44 pm IST - CHENNAI

Assistant Commandant M. Arvind

Assistant Commandant M. Arvind

In a rare order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has overruled the decision of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) claiming exemption to disclosure of information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, and directed the Chief Public Information Officer to share details of the Court of Inquiry constituted to probe the circumstances that led to the death of Assistant Commandant M. Arvind on August 23, 2019.

The case pertains to the death of Arvind (33), a native of Coimbatore, who served as Assistant Commandant, 40th BN, Anantnag, Kashmir. The officer allegedly killed himself on the night of August 23, 2019 at his residence. Dismissing reports that the alleged suicide was triggered by poor living conditions on the campus, the CRPF had issued a statement that there was no foul play and initial inquiry had pointed to some marital problems.

Arvind’s father K.S. Mani wrote to the CRPF authorities seeking certain details of the Court of Inquiry. However, the CPIO replied that security forces, including CRPF, were exempted from providing information, except details related to allegations of corruption/violation of human rights under Section 24(1) of the RTI Act.

“In this matter, there appears to be no violation of human rights as well as facts of the case do not attract the allegations of corruption. Moreover, your application does not make any reference to such allegations. Hence this department is not liable to provide any information in this regard to you under RTI, Act, 2005,” the CPIO said.

Aggrieved over the response of the CPIO and the first appellate authority, the petitioner moved the CIC for relief. He participated in the hearing along with his daughter Anitha who stated that the matter involved violation of human rights as her brother died under suspicious circumstances. It was their apprehension that he did not die by suicide. She appealed to the commission that being the next of kin, they were entitled to receive the entire Court of Inquiry report.

The counsel for CRPF, Aijaz Rasheed Ganai, who participated in the hearing, contended that the matter was under investigation. He said a copy of the general diary, death certificate of the appellant’s son, post-mortem report, and the Court of Inquiry’s final order had already been provided to the appellant. However, the complete Court of Inquiry proceeding was not disclosed since it was a restricted document.

Passing orders in the case, the Chief Information Commissioner, Y.K. Sinha said: “In view of the personal loss suffered by the appellant due to the demise of his son, the rights of the next of the kin and the allegations made by him during the hearing, the Commission finds this as a fit case for allowing disclosure of information invoking the proviso to Section 24(1) regarding allegation of violation of human rights.”

He directed the CPIO to re-examine the matter and provide the Court of Inquiry records after redacting information exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1) of the Act. The Commission also advised CRPF authorities to offer an opportunity of personal meeting to the petitioner before the concerned officials in New Delhi to address his personal grievance to the extent possible.

Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact the Tamil Nadu State Helpline Number 104.

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