The Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed the Centre to withhold list of documents and precious material seized by a central agency during the 1984 operation at the Golden Temple in Punjab in which 576 persons, including Army personnel, were killed.
An RTI applicant, Gurvinder Singh Chadha, had demanded from the Union Home Ministry list of all the material seized during the operation and its present status as well as all records related to the operation and list of all the persons who died during the operation conducted by the Army to flush out militants holed up inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Without giving the list and the specific details of the seized material, the ministry had said in its RTI response to Chadha that “about 4000 documents/books/files and gold /gold ornaments, silver/silver ornaments, precious stones currency, coins etc. were recovered by a central agency during the Operation Blue Star. The articles and documents were handed over either to SGPC or to the Government of Punjab”.
“As per records available with this office, 493 terrorists/civilians and 83 Army officials were killed in Golden Temple area in June, 1984,” the home ministry further said.
Dissatisfied with the denial of specific information about the seized material, Chadha filed first appeal within the ministry before a senior official who upheld the denial of information invoking Section 8 1(a) of the RTI Act.
The Section allows the government to withhold information, disclosure of which would 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.
During the second appeal before the Central Information Commission, highest adjudication body in RTI matters, Chadha stated that a satisfactory response was not yet provided on points related to records of Operation Blue Star and a list of material seized during it.
The ministry said a point wise response was provided to Chadha but the details sought pertained to confidential information, the disclosure of which could prejudicially affect the safety and security of the country.
Agreeing with the home ministry’s view, Information Commissioner Y K Sinha held Chadha has sought “vague, ambiguous and generic information” which cannot be disclosed in terms of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
“Hence, no further intervention of the Commission is warranted in the matter,” Sinha said.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has been demanding the return of the artefacts, allegedly taken away by the Army during Operation Blue Star in 1984.
Last year in June, SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh had said the holy scriptures, artefacts and historical books, which were part of the Sikh Reference Library, were taken away by the Army during the operation.
When asked that a section of media had reported that the Centre had returned the artefacts to the SGPC, Singh had claimed that only a few copies of historical books were returned.
He had said still a large quantity of material and handwritten copies of the Guru Granth Sahib were with the Centre.
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