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If private reports are made public under RTI, it can “jeopardise” govt sources: The Delhi High Court does not agree with a man on death row.

On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court denied a death-row prisoner’s request for information from the Ministry of Home Affairs about banning Indian Mujahideen under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The prisoner had asked for this information in a petition.

In October 2015, a special court used the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) to sentence the petitioner, Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique, to death for his role in the 11 July 2006, Mumbai train bombings. He is being kept in the Nagpur Central Prison right now.

The court said that Siddique made a request under the Right to Information Act (RTI) for “background notes” from the Centre and reports from some state governments about the ban on IM, which was said to have been responsible for the blast.

He fought against the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) order from June 13, 2019, which said he couldn’t get the information because it was exempt under the RTI Act.

Justice Prathiba Singh, who was on a single-judge bench, said, “A review of the information shows that the same has far-reaching effects. Since 2005, the same group is said to have been involved in a number of bad events, some of which caused serious loss of life and property.

In such a situation, the High Court said, the government might have gotten confidential reports, and releasing those reports would “seriously endanger the sources of different authorities in the state and the Centre.” It said that the CIC’s decision to withhold information is “right and doesn’t need to be changed.”

The court also said that the information being asked for would “have an effect on India’s sovereignty and security.”

“Given all of this, the writ petition is without merit and is thrown out,” the court said.

Siddique’s lawyer, Arpit Bhargava, said that the information requested in the RTI application was needed to prove his client’s innocence in the criminal case. He also said that the “background notes” and reports from the states didn’t need to be kept secret anymore because Indian Mujahideen had already been banned under UAPA.

The Center’s lawyer replied that the information being asked for was private and would hurt the public interest.

In February, the HC turned down another request from Siddique for reports from the governments of Maharashtra and Andra Pradesh about the probe into the 7/11 train blasts. The HC said that “reports and dossiers by intelligence agencies about terrorist activities that are being investigated are barred and can’t be released under RTI,” especially if they threaten the country’s sovereignty and integrity.


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