New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the country’s largest prison Tihar to make public death warrant of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru along with copies of communication sent to his family informing about the date of execution.
34-year-old Mohammad Afzal Guru was convicted for his role in the December 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament and hanged on February 9, 2013.
In a stern order, Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said any RTI application (in this case seeking details of Afzal Guru’s execution) cannot be rejected lock, stock and barrel without application of mind and citing exemption under Section 8 without justifying the defence.
The Commission directed the Tihar authorities to provide to RTI applicant Paras Nath Singh certified copy of death warrant for the execution of Guru.
The case relates to Singh’s application seeking among other details death warrant and video recording of Guru’s execution. The Tihar authorities refused to provide any information, saying it would endanger national security.
“The Commission finds this rejection of RTI application in toto is without any application of mind and without examining each and every point, separating the information that can be given from one that cannot be given using doctrine of severability provided under section 10,” Sridhar said.
He said neither the CPIO nor First Appellate Authority of Tihar gave any reasoning for claiming exemption under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.
“The Commission suggests that the public authorities, their CPIOs and Appellate Authorities should desist from rejecting the RTI applications lock, stock and barrel without giving any reason or justification the exemption claimed which compels the applicant to approach the Commission,” he said.
The appellant pleaded before the Commission that he wanted the date on which the communication was sent to Guru’s family informing them about the execution to know whether sufficient time was given to them.
“The Commission observed that denying copy of death warrant, copy of communication sent to the family of Afzal Guru about execution is devoid of reason and thus arbitrary and unreasonable,” Sridhar said.
The Information Commissioner asked the Central Public Information Officer of Tihar how disclosure of death warrant of Guru would endanger national security to which he said it might create a law and order situation and endanger lives of the people.
The Tihar CPIO later agreed that endangering the nation is totally different from the possibility of creating law and order problem, the Commission noted in his order.
On the issue of disclosing video recording of Guru’s execution, the CPIO said he would have to check whether the execution was video recorded or not.
“The Commission agrees that seeking video recording of execution of Afzal and name of the officer who fixed the date of execution are hit by 8(1)(g) and even the petitioner tried to prove public interest in this, it cannot be given as per the RTI Act,” he said.
Sridhar directed the CPIO to not give video recording of execution of Guru but inform the application whether there was a video recording or not.
He also directed the authorities to withhold the name of official who fixed the date of execution as it could cause serious risk to the life of the officer.