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Allow inspection of Sharm el-Sheikh files: CIC to MEA

January 18, 2010 19:35 IST

The Central Information Commission has allowed the inspection of files pertaining to the controversial Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement of India and Pakistan last year, responding to a Right To Information application.

The RTI applicant had sought to know the names of officials involved in the drafting of the document, which had kicked up a political row in India as it contained a reference to Balochistan, where Pakistan has been alleging Indian hand in terror incidents, and delinking of talks from action against terrorism by Pakistan.

Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit came down heavily on the Union external affairs ministry for not complying with its directive to produce the file for perusal on December 8, 2009 and not providing the information within mandated 30-day period before issuing show-cause notice.

RTI activist S C Agrawal had sought a copy of the statement by India and Pakistan issued at the Non Aligned Movement Summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year, besides names of the officials and persons involved in framing it along with file-notes on its drafting.

The ministry provided the copy of the joint declaration and the list of officials in the delegation but did not give any names of the officials who had drafted the proposal and said there were no file-notes in its records.

The Commission directed the ministry to produce the file to 'verify the veracity' of reply but that was not provided even after specific directions and repeated telephone reminders from it.

The ministry said joint statements issued after such meetings encapsulate the mutually agreed substance of the discussions between the leaders during such meetings.

It said no file-notings exist pertaining to decisions taken with regard to the drafting of the text of the joint statement as issued after the meeting.

The joint statement was drafted immediately at the prime ministerial-level meeting on the sidelines of the NAM summit, the ministry said, while requesting the Commission to drop the proceedings of show-cause notice.

"In view of the fact that the Joint Statement/declaration between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan at Sharm el-Sheikh has been provided by the respondent (MEA) and it denies existence of any 'file-notings', the Commission directs that the complainant (Agrawal) be allowed to inspect the relevant files to locate all information as sought by him," Dixit said.

The government has been maintaining silence over who was responsible for drafting the controversial statement issued following talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in July last year.

The then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had said it could be a case of 'bad drafting.'

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