Property details of Royals not exempt from disclosure: CIC

A full Bench of the Commission said that such details are over 20 years old and in view of section 8(1)(3) of the RTI Act they cannot be withheld."The list of properties are not exempted in view of the Section 8(1)(3) of the RTI Act," the Bench said.

The section cited by the Bench allows making public the information, otherwise exempted from disclosure, if it is more than 20 year old.

The Bench also directed the Home Ministry to make public the merger agreement signed by the then Nawab of Bhopal with the Government of India in 1949.

The case relates to an RTI application filed by one Z U Alvi seeking copy of the letter dated August 15, 1955 from Nawab Hamidullah Khan of Bhopal to Govind Ballabh Pant, along with enclosures, merger agreement and another letter written in 1956 with enclosures like gift deed of "Riaz Manzil" by Nawab of Bhopal to his wife Aftab Jahan Begum.

"It leaves no doubt that the contents of Bhopal Merger Agreement and the enclosures thereto are public documents. Hence, in the spirit of the RTI Act, such documents should also be furnished to the Appellant," it held.

Under the merger agreement executed by the Nawab of Bhopal, the State of Bhopal was merged into the Dominion of India for a period of five years only.

It also said the income derived annually from the share of the Nawab in the original investment by Qudsia Begum in the Bhopal State Railway, which share was agreed to be Rupees five lakhs and fifty five thousand, shall be treated as the personal income of the Nawab and shall be paid by the Government of India to the Nawab, and his successors.
The Home Ministry was objecting to disclosure citing a reply given by the then Home Minister Y B Chavan on November 15, 1967 on the floor of Lok Sabha where he stated that details of the property recognized as the private property of the ruler should not be a matter for public disclosure.

The Bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioners Sushma Singh and Shailesh Gandhi rejected the contention by underlining a communication from Lok Sabha stating that the reply given by Chavan pertained to properties of princely rulers of Indore and Gwalior only.

"The Ministry of Home Affairs will procure the documents from the National Archives by giving them the proper reference number to identify the document numbered by them, if they do not have the custody of documents at present, and supply the same to the Applicant," the Commission said.

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