CIC order for disclosing Sharm-e-Sheikh files stayed


New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday stayed the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose the file notings related to the India-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh.

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Following two Right to Information (RTI) petitions, Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit, in a Jan 4 order, had asked the external affairs ministry to disclose the files related to the July 16 India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. The ministry earlier failed to provide the names of the officials who drafted the statement, as well as file notings.

Hearing the appeal against the CIC order, Justice S.Muralidhar stayed it and issued a notice to RTI activist S.C.Agrawal for July 23.

The central government had challenged the CIC order that directing scrutiny of documents is beyond its jurisdiction.

“The CIC has failed to consider that there are crucial issues concerning national security and relations with other countries involved in the case. India’s relations with its neighbour, especially Pakistan, are of a complex and sensitive nature,” the central government said in its petition.

“Furthermore, there is an ongoing process of negotiation with Pakistan to resolve the outstanding issues and regular correspondences are being exchanged between the two countries,” it added.

“There would be large-scale adverse ramification for India’s foreign policy if such sensitive ongoing negotiations are exposed prematurely to the public domain and subjected to publicity and media scrutiny,” it stressed.

Agrawal had filed two RTI petitions in July last year before the MEA and the Prime Minister’s Office asking for a copy of the joint statement, the names of the officers who drafted the statement and file notings.

The PMO subsequently transferred its RTI application to the MEA.

The July 16, 2008, statement, issued after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani at the Egyptian sea-side resort on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, was criticised for de-linking the issue of the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan from Islamabad doing enough to catch the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, as well as to dismantle the entire terror infrastructure on its soil.

Indian opposition parties were also strongly opposed to the joint statement, as it mentioned Balochistan. Pakistan claimed then that India was involved in fomenting unrest in Balochistan, which New Delhi has strongly denied.

In a bid to defend the government from the barrage of opposition, the then foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said that the only criticism possible against the joint statement was that it was a case of “bad drafting”.