The mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose on Tuesday returned to haunt the Union Home Ministry as the central information commission expressed displeasure over its stand of not parting with documents related to his alleged death in a plane crash in 1945.
"Who are you to decide if an information can cause unrest? You have to be accountable to the people of the country as to why an information cannot be disclosed. You must change your stated position and take a reasoned decision," Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said during a hearing by a full bench.
The full bench, headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, met to decide on a plea by Sayantan Dasgupta, who had sought information from the ministry about documents relied on by two commissions that had arrived at the conclusion that Netaji had died in an air crash in Taiwan.
Dasgupta, a member of Delhi-based organisation Mission Netaji, had sought certified copies of all documents exhibited before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee (1956) and the Khosla Commission (1970-74), which probed Netaji's disappearance, as the recent Mukherjee Commission had contradicted their findings.
During the hour-long proceedings, the ministry was at the receiving end as it failed to explain its reasoning that providing the documents could lead to unrest in the country, including in Netaji's home state of West Bengal.
"At what level, this decision (for non-disclosure) has been taken? Is it the intelligence, bureaucracy or the politician...?" Tiwari enquired even as the full bench reserved its order on the matter.
The commission refused to buy the home ministry's arguments and its efforts to seek refuge under Section 8(3) of the Right To Information Act, under which information can be denied in the interest of the nation.
The ministry contended that the two panel reports had not provided any list of exhibits, as a result of which it was difficult for it to trace the documents sought by Dasgupta.
Dasgupta, however, contested this by saying that he had provided a list of about 200 classified documents that were placed before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee and Justice G D Khosla Commission.
He had filed an RTI application with the home ministry on June 22, 2006, in which he had sought certified copies of documents relied on by the panels for arriving at the conclusion that Netaji had died in a plane crash in 1945.
The issue had earlier been a cause of embarrassment for the ministry when it said in response to an RTI application that it had no information on Netaji's death and that no money was spent by the government on advertisements on January 23, 2007, Netaji's birthday.
The statements from the ministry had not been received well by the Left parties, especially the Forward Bloc whose general secretary Debabrata Biswas had sent a letter to Home Minister Shivraj Patil to demand an explanation.