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NEW DELHI: In a tantalising development, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to place before it the files related to the controversial recall last year of high commissioner to New Zealand, Harish Kumar Dogra.
Information commissioner O P Kejariwal will peruse the documents to decide whether MEA was justified in taking refuge under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act and claiming that the disclosure of information on Dogra's recall would 'prejudicially affect' India's relations with a foreign state.
For, the MEA had rejected an RTI application on the subject saying that it would involve disclosure of information given in confidence by New Zealand.
On an appeal filed by Gurgaon-based lawyer Sanchit Sahijpal, the CIC asked MEA to furnish all records, including the file-notings leading to Dogra's recall, by June 29.
Pushing the frontiers of official secrets that can put in the public domain, Kejariwal's order opens up the possibility of shedding light on why exactly Dogra was recalled on the cryptic charge of misusing his position two years after he had been posted as high commissioner to New Zealand.
Kejariwal's order also demonstrates that RTI can be more effective than judicial remedies. For, Dogra has so
far failed to get any interim relief from the Central Administrative Tribunal, where his petition challenging his recall is pending.
Dogra got into an ugly confrontation with the government as he refused to comply with its orders in March 2006. The government then forced him to return two months later by withdrawing his accreditation and suspending his diplomatic passport.
While the government reportedly acted against him following complaints, Dogra hit back by making personal allegations against the then foreign secretary, Shyam Saran.