DGP asked to provide information
As reported by Staff Reporter in The Assam Tribune on 20 January 2008:
DGP asked to provide information
GUWAHATI, Jan 19 – In a landmark order, the Assam Information Commission has directed the Director General of the State Police (DGP) to furnish information to TL Baruah, a former Home Commissioner of the State on a number of issues concerning the surrendered militants during 1998-2004. The DGP’s office and the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) of the Police Department had earlier denied information to Baruah on the number of weapons deposited by the ex-militants during the period, total amount of compensation paid for the weapons and the totals amount of rehabilitation assistance paid to them.
The Police Department had also denied Baruah the information on the total outstanding amount payable to the banks and financial institutions in respect to the 100 per cent margin money scheme introduced for the State’s surrendered militants.
It needs mention here that it was during Baruah’s tenure as the Home Commissioner the 100 per cent special margin money scheme for rehabilitation of ULFA surrenderees was introduced by the State Government under the stewardship of the late Hiteswar Saikia in 1992.
The scheme was introduced by the State for the first time in the country and later on, similar schemes were introduced all over the country.
Baruah had sought ten information in total concerning the surrendered militants from the Police Department. The other six information he sought were – how many militants surrendered to avail the rehabilitation assistance under the 1998 policy, how many militants surrendered under the latest rehabilitation policy announced in 2005, number of militants attending rehabilitation camps, names of NGOs associated in running rehabilitation camps, total amount of assistance earmarked for their assistance in the current budget and whether the Central Government had provided full funds for the 1998 and 2005 schemes. Information on these issues were provided to him.
Baruah’s plea on the four items was rejected by the Police Department on the ground that the Special Branch of the Police was exempted from the purview of the RTI Act, 2005 by the State Government under Section 24 (4) of the RTI Act. The State Government had issued a notice (No -PLA 384/2005/54; Political (A) Department) on March 8 last year to that effect.
Baruah in his appeal to the State Information Commission said that the 1998 scheme for surrendered militants offered cash awards ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 per weapon and ammunition depending on their types. The cash award is not a secret information, he said.
The Union Government’s 2004 scheme for rehabilitation of surrendered militants provides for financial assistance of Rs 1.50 lakh to be paid to each of the militants after three years of good behaviour. The amount is to be paid from the budgeted amounts, he said.
He further said that under the 100 per cent margin money scheme introduced in 1992 for rehabilitation of surrendered militants, the State Government provided margin money of Rs 50,000 and the banks and financial institutions offered loans up to a limit of Rs 1.5 lakh against Government guarantee. This is also in public domain, Baruah said in his appeal to the State Information Commission.
The Information Commission also made a significant observation in its order on the March 8, 2007 notification of the State Government. It said that the SB of the State Police used to function under the overall control of the DGP. Its affairs were not insubordinate to the control and direction of the DGP. However, where it operates under the separate budgetary provision and in matters relating to intelligence, security, source money etc. the SB would come within the exclusion as notified by the Government under Section 24 (4) of the RTI Act.