The CIC directed the home ministry to disclose file notings and correspondence related to mercy petitions of all death row convicts including Afzal Guru
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to disclose copies of the file notings, not forming part of the ministerial advice to the President of India, related to mercy petitions of all convicts on death sentence including Afzal Guru and others.
Sushma Singh, Central Information Commissioner, in an order dated 26th June, said, “the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the MHA should provide the file notings after severing all the names and other references regarding the identities of the public servants those file notings and making those correspondence”.
The CIC also asked the ministry to disclose the copies of the correspondence made by MHA to the President’s Secretariat from time to time in connection with the mercy petitions.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, along with Venkatesh Nayak, Suchismita Goswami and Nandita Sinha filed the second appeal before the CIC, after the concerned authorities failed to disclose the information sought by him. In the application, they sought following information:
1. Copy of complete correspondence/file-notings/documents, etc, relating to mercy-petitions of Afzal Guru and other convicts of death sentence whose files have been forwarded to the President’s Secretariat by Union home ministry after rejection of mercy petitions of Devindersingh Khullar and Mahender Nath Dass by the Honourable President of India.
2. Complete and detailed information together with correspondence/file-notings/documents, etc, including list of convicts of death sentence whose mercy petitions are decided by the Honourable President of India after rejection of mercy petitions of Devindersingh Khullar and Mahender Nath Dass by the Honourable President of India.
3. Complete updated detailed list of pending mercy petitions at any stage like at Union home ministry and President’s Secretariat or with state governments, etc, by persons convicted of death sentence.
4. Complete updated list of mercy petitions sent finally by Union home ministry with its recommendations/comments, etc, to the President’s Secretariat/Honourable President of India for final disposal mentioning also recommendations made by Union home ministry and dates of recommendations sent by Union Home Ministry.
5. Any other related details.
6. File-notings on movement of this RTI petition as well.
The CPIO, in his reply, refused to disclose information related with point no 1 saying that it cannot be disclosed under Section8(1), (a), (g) and (i) of the RTI Act. In reply to point no 2, the CPIO said, “Two mercy petition cases i.e. cases of Murugan, Santhan & Arivu of Tamil Nadu and Sattan & Guddu of Uttar Pradesh, have been decided after the decision of mercy petition case of Devender Pal Singh. Documents of the case of Murugan, Santhan & Arivu cannot be disclosed under section 8(1)(a),(b) & (g) of RTI Act. However, some pages of the mercy petition case of Sattan & Guddu can be furnished on the payment of Rs82 for 41 pages (Rs2 per page)”.
However, Mr Agrawal felt that it is unjustified that exemption may be sought only for some selected cases while file notings are allowed on rest other cases. “(The) CPIO has also not mentioned any court order prohibiting disclosure of file notings as claimed under section 8(1)(b) of RTI Act. Rather it is a matter of great public interest involving even life and liberty of certain individuals that too at a time when demand for abolishing death sentence is worldwide, including even in India,” he said.
While no decision has been taken on the mercy petitions of several convicts on death sentence, there is one case of Ram Chander Ravji, whose fate was decided in record six days by the President of India, says Mr Agrawal. “File-notings disclosed in case of one Ravji @ Ram Chandra decided in record six days by the then President of India with final hanging done in less than three years of committing the crime (murder) had shocked even many legal luminaries and those in judiciary, and even rules were changed thereafter to decide mercy petitions on basis of the date of the trial court judgment rather than earlier system of deciding according to dates of filing mercy petitions,” he said.
“Providing file notings on mercy petitions can effectively check any such repeat of wrong decision on mercy petitions like was admittedly done in supersonic hanging of Ravji @ Ram Chandra in record shortest period as referred above,” said the RTI activist.
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