Saturday, April 25, 2009

Release info on 1971 spy in 20 days: CIC tells MEA

The Ministry of External Affairs has been told by the Central Information Commission to provide me within 20 days "point-wise information" relating to the 1971 CIA spy case. "In the event some of the information is available with any other Ministry, the CPIO, MEA to obtain the information and provide the same to the Appellant," the CIC further said.

The directive comes after a hearing before Information Commissioner Mrs Annapurna Dixit on 16 April 2009. The following is the complete text of the CIC order.

The development has been given wide coverage in media. (See links below). The Times of India carried this story and The Pioneer said the following in an edit: Clearly the public interest that is involved in this case far outweighs any other consideration. The Government should, therefore, come clean and tell all, if only to set the record straight and end speculation.

The MEA should respond in the next few days.


Central Information Commission

Dated April 16, 2009
Name of the Applicant: Mr Anuj Dhar
Name of the Public Authority: Ministry of External Affairs


1. The Applicant filed an RTI application dt.10.11.08 with the CPIO, MEA. He requested for the following information with regard to leak of national security information by a CIA agent during the 1971 war:

i) Complete record of the meeting between External Affairs Minister Mr. Swaran Singh and US Secretary of State William Rogers on 5.10.1972.

ii) Names and other details about the people who as per EAM Mr. Swaran Singh were in touch with the CIA and leaked out the details of the proceedings of the Congress Working Committee.

iii) Photocopies of the records on the basis of which the EAM asserted that the 'GOI had information that proceedings of Congress Working Committee were known to US officials within two hours of meetings.

iv) Photocopies of all records dealing with the recurring allegations that a minister betrayed the nation by leaking out information to the CIA during the 1971 war.

v) Detailed list of all destroyed/missing records the MEA had on the recurring allegations that a minister betrayed Indian during the 1971 war by leaking out information to the CIA.

vi) Photocopies of records, if any, relating to the widely reported claim made by columnist Mr. Jack Anderson in The Washington Post and elsewhere in Dec.1971 that during the Bangladesh war the CIA was getting 'reports from a source close to Mrs. Gandhi'.

vii) Photocopies of records, if any, relating to the controversy generated by the subsequent allegation made by Thomas Powers in his 1979 book (The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms & CIA) that an Indian politician was on the CIA's rolls.

viii) Photocopies of records, if any relating to the accusations made by journalist Semour Hersh in 1983 in his book The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House that late PM Mr. Morarji Desai had spied for the CIA, subsequent court case initiated by Shri Desai in the US and all such related records.

The CPIO replied on 11.12.08 stating that the information supplied by the concerned division of the Ministry is as follows:

i) The request for information/documents is based on reports of foreign Govt., newspapers and books which the Govt. of India does not take cognizance of unsubstantiated reports.

ii) In terms of Article 8 Section (3) of the RTI Act, authorities are obligated to divulge records/information of only those events which have been happened within 20 years of the request being made.

Not satisfied with the reply, the Applicant filed an appeal dt.3.1.09 with the Appellate Authority. The Appellate Authority replied on 22.1.09 stating that the appeal is denied for reasons mentioned in the CPIO's letter dt.11.12.08. Aggrieved with this reply, the Applicant filed a second appeal dt.3.2.09 before CIC.

2. The Bench of Mrs. Annapurna Dixit, Information Commissioner, scheduled the hearing for April 16, 2009.

3. Mr. Debraj Pradhan, JS(RTI) & CPIO and Ms. Priyanka Chauhan, US(AMS) represented the Public Authority.

4. The Applicant was present during the hearing.


5. The Appellant submitted that the information is being sought in public interest and that most of the information should be available with the Ministry of External Affairs. He also added that he is deeply upset with the fact that the CPIO has labeled the information he is seeking as "unsubstantiated reports". It was the Appellant's contention that the information that he is seeking is of great historical importance and that there are number of instances where the government did take serious note of 'preposterous' stories published in foreign journals. He quoted several instances in this connection. He further stated that the public interest in disclosure of this case for outweighs the harm to protected interests since his request pertains to a case where a CIA agent operating out of the Union Cabinet betrayed the nation during the 1971 war. According to him, declassified US Govt. records clearly establish this fact. He further added that the United States, has already declassified most of the records, including those originating from the intelligence agency.

6. Taking note of the importance of the documents being sought by the Appellant, the Commission directs the CPIO to provide point-wise information against points raised in the RTI request clearly stating whether the information is available with the Ministry of External Affairs against each point and if available, providing the same to the Appellant. In the event some of the information is available with any other Ministry, the CPIO, MEA to obtain the information and provide the same to the Appellant. All available information to be provided within 20 days of receipt of this Order.

7. The appeal is disposed off.

Annapurna Dixit
Information Commissioner

Media coverage: Times of India, Hindustan Times, NDTV, TV 18 Hindi, Navbharat Times, DNA, India Today, Zee, News X, Outlook, Oman Tribune, Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, Mediabharti

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