Shastri's death document cannot be disclosed: PMO

The PMO has, however, specified no reason for its non-disclosure while citing the confidentiality clause under the RTI Act.

The case relating to disclosure of records pertaining to the death of Shastri will now come up in appeal before the Central Information Commission, which will take a decision on the confidentiality issue.

Earlier, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), while rejecting an RTI application relating to Shastri's death, had accepted that the PMO has one document on it but turned down the plea to make it public, citing the confidentiality clause under the Act.

The RTI applicant Anuj Dhar, author of a book, 'CIA's Eye on South Asia', had then filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority in PMO against the decision of the CPIO.

"I appreciate the point made by you in favour of transparency. However, on perusal of document in question and after giving the matter a careful consideration, I am satisfied that exemption sought under Section 8 (1)(a) has been invoked rightly," Vini Mahajan, Joint Secretary in PMO said while rejecting the appeal.

Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act exempts the disclosure of information which can "prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence."

Dhar, in his appeal, had argued that "it has been 44 long years since Shastri died, and, therefore, there can be nothing in the record which might affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, our strategic interests, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence in 2009.

"Relations... cannot be affected since the foreign state in question, the USSR, does not exist. Its successor should not have any objection to release of any information..." He had also cited CIC's decisions in matters relating to disclosure of government documents.

After the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, Shastri had gone to Tashkent in erstwhile USSR in January 1966 for a summit meeting with then Pakistan President Ayub Khan. He died under mysterious circumstances, hours after signing the joint declaration, Dhar's petition said.

Sunil Shastri, son of the former Prime Miniser, has said, "When the body came here, the family was disturbed to see it. My mother demanded a postmorten but it was not done.

After so many years, the government should come up with a proper clarification in the matter."

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