Rare government records pertaining to events leading to abolition of privileges of erstwhile rulers of Indian states appear to be missing from the National Archives here. Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh came to know about this through an RTI application in which he had sought information on these records. The National Archives said that the documents could not be traced and they were looking for it.
Singh, represented through his Secretary Raghvendra Singh, moved his request before Home Ministry on January 17 this year. He sought an inspection of documents, including cabinet papers and notings that preceded the abolition of "privileges and privy purses" of rulers of then Indian states.
What followed thereafter was a eight-month-long hiatus wherein the records were searched in the Ministry's record office, which finally took a stand that documents and files have been transferred to the National Archives.
The Archives, after its efforts to trace out the records, could only manage to find only two amongst a total of 10 files sought by Singh, who required those documents for research and study.
NAI, however, said its efforts were on to trace out the remaining documents.
A complaint was thereafter preferred before the Central Information Commission seeking appropriate directions.
While the Ministry did not approach its Appellate Authority in relation to his RTI plea, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah allowed his appeal on grounds that despite Singh's repeated requests, no documents could be provided to him.
Habibullah has directed the National Archives to make "renewed efforts" to look out for the files that have by far remained untraced. The documents would have to be opened to Singh, for inspection, within 20 days.
Unable to trace privy purse files: MHA, archives to CIC
Unable to trace privy purse files: MHA, archives to CIC
As Reported by Utkarsh Anand Thursday, June 19, 2008, indianexpress.com
New Delhi, June 18: In a shocking revelation, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Archives of India (NAI) have told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that they are unable to trace files pertaining to the post-Independence Government and its policies concerning privy purses.
The information regarding Cabinet papers, file notings, discussion notes, minutes and such other important policy records concerning the Government and rulers of former princely states was sought by Jaswant Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
In India, the privy purse was a grant given since 1947 to the rulers of the princely states as part of their terms of accession to the new republic, which was abolished in 1971.
The BJP leader had sought the information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the CIC had in its order last year directed the MHA to open for inspection the relevant files transferred to it by the NAI.
However, Jaswant Singh’s secretary, who was assigned the right to inspect the files as his representative, told the CIC that despite a year’s delay, the MHA could provide only two files which related to peripheral matters devoid of any policy implications and hence “irrelevant” for him.
The CIC then summoned the officials concerned from the MHA and NAI to explain things.
While the MHA contended that it could find only two files relating to abolition of the privy purses, the NAI claimed that there were many volumes of the documents and a number of files were still with the ministry and were never sent to them for custody.
The MHA official had also carried with him two files during the recent CIC hearing but Singh’s representative maintained that he had already gone through them, which did not contain information on the substantive issues.
Irked by this, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, “It is distressing to note that documents of such important nature in the evolution of free India’s history that will be vital for any documentation of the history of the late 20th century are not traceable either in the MHA or in the premier repository of our country’s remembrance, the NAI.”
Pulling up both the public authorities, Habibullah further said it was all the “more alarming that there is no record of movement of these documents which could enable tracing of these and conservation”.
The Commission has now directed the MHA to look into every nook and corner of its offices and storerooms to trace the documents and the movement of the files, if any, so that they could be retrieved.
Officials responsible from both the departments have been summoned on June 28 “to compare notes and devise ways of ensuring recovery of the files in question and their proper conservation, and indeed inspection by the complainant”.
New Delhi, June 27: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Home Ministry to allow former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh to inspect official files relating to the abolition of privy purses to princely states.
“This inspection will be allowed free of charge, in view of the fact that this access is being given well after the time period as mandated under the RTI Act,” Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.
The abolition was brought to effect through the 26th Constitutional Amendment in 1971.The Commission also directed the Ministry officials to complete his search for all the files related to the subject of abolition of privileges and privy purses of the erstwhile rulers of Indian states.
On June 12, the CIC had pulled up the MHA for its failure to trace records related to abolition of privy purses. “It is distressing to note that documents of so important a nature in the evolution of free India’s history — that will be vital for any documentation of the history of the late 20th century — are not traceable,” Habibullah had said.
Following a direction by the Commission, senior MHA officials had appeared before it on Thursday and submitted three files relating to the matter.
Singh, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had sought Cabinet papers, notings, discussion notes, minutes and other records, which led to the abolition of privy purses, from the Ministry.
The CIC had placed such prime importance on finding the documents, which officials claimed were “untraceable”, that it had directed a search in “almirahs and storerooms of officers above the rank of JS who have been dealing with the subject in the Ministry of Home Affairs, so as to allay any suspicion that the documents may have been accessed in the Ministry at some earlier date but have been placed in the cupboard and forgotten about”.