Consider Wadia's plea for info on Jinnah House: CIC

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New Delhi, Jan 24: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been directed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to consider afresh the plea of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's grandson Nusli Wadia for information regarding a letter his mother Dinah Wadia wrote to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for restoration of the ownership of the Jinnah House in Mumbai.

Mr Wadia had filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court seeking a declaration that the possession of the property, Jinnah House, by the Indian Government was illegal and prayed for restoration of the same to the petitioner. He had moved an application to the MEA in June last year seeking documents, notes of meeting and file notes relating to or arising out of the letter sent by Ms Dinah Wadia to the Prime Minister in July 2001.

He had also sought minutes of meetings with the Prime Minister and any other Ministers/Officials on the matter and opinions given by any authority or person, including legal advice.

Mr Wadia had said the documents applied for by him in his application under the RTI Act were of the utmost importance in deciding the matter in the court.

The Ministry gave him some of the information sought but denied some taking shelter under section 8 (1) A of the RTI Act which blocks such information from public disclosure of which may prejudicially affect the country's relations with a foreign State.

''As you are aware, the matter of Jinnah House has been subject of discussion at the inter-governmental level between India and Pakistan from time to time. Issues concerning our relations with Pakistan are involved. A close scrutiny of the documents pertaining to this case indicate that disclosure of the contents of some of the documents, would prejudicially affect the relation of India with a foreign state,'' Mr Wadia was told by the CPIO of the Ministry in response to his application.

He then moved the 1st Appellate Authority on September 9 last year, but his application was rejected on the ground that a second appeal could not be entertained on the same matter already decided upon by the 1st Appellate Authority. Following the above ruling, Mr Wadia then approached the CIC.

The Commission, after its final hearing involving all the parties on January 15 decided that the MEA should consider his application afresh and supply the remaining information sought by him, though in an edited version.

The CIC pointed out to the MEA that as per its own admission, it had provided some of the information which was ''confidential or secret'', so other information too could be provided to him even though that may be classified so long as its disclosure did not come under the Section eight of the Act.

Moreover, it said the provisions of Section 8(1) have to be read with Section 8(2) and Section 10(1). Under Section 8(2), a public authority may allow access to exempted information if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

''In the present case, neither the CPIO nor the First Appellate Authority has examined the matter concerning denial in the light of provisions of Section 8(2) or Sec 10(1), since no notice required u/s 10 (2) has been given to appellant Shri Wadia,'' said the Commission in its ruling last week.


UNI

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