Says that a compiled copy of older orders will be provided as per CIC’s direction
The Ministry of Home Affairs has informed A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, that the Central government did not frame any remission rules under Article 72/73 or Section 432-435 of CrPC in light of the judgment by the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in the Union of India vs Sridharan alias Murugan & others case in December 2015.
The admission that no remission rules were framed came almost two years after the convict moved a petition under the Right to Information Act. On January 8, 2016, Perarivalan had petitioned to the MHA seeking a copy of the remission rules framed by the Central government as per the constitutional bench judgement of the Supreme Court dated December 2, 2015, in the matter of Union of India vs. V. Sriharan alias Murugan & Others.
He also sought to access a copy of the circular/order/bylaw issued by the Centre to all the State governments restraining them from granting any remission/suspension/release in the matter in which the apex court held that Centre to be the appropriate government.
After the Ministry refused to divulge any details on the grounds that the matter was sub judice, the convict moved the Central Information Commission (CIC). Passing orders on the appeal on August 14, 2018, Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted that the reply of the MHA was not complete as regards rules and guidelines framed by the Central Government on the matter of remission.
“The Public Information Officer (PIO) failed to apply his mind and sought a blanket refuge under the guise of the matter being sub judice. It is well settled that that mere pendency of a matter before a court of law does not render all information espousing the matter as exempted under the RTI Act. There was no specific direction from the court to that effect. Hence, the decision of the PIO was bad in law,” he held adding that all the appellant wanted to know was the documented policy, rules governing the remission of convicts in light of a judicial pronouncement.
Referring to the denial of copies of all remission orders passed by the Central Government throughout the territory of India, Mr. Azad said that the Public Information Officer had not taken a position in this regard, but in hindsight opposed the disclosure of the same.
The Commission said it saw no impediment if the remission orders were made public and directed the Public Information Officer, MHA, to furnish details sought by the petitioner by September 30, 2018.
Complying with this order the MHA wrote to the convict,presently lodged in the Puzhal Central Prison, Chennai, on November 8, 2018, that no remission rules were framed by the Centre.
As regards copies of remission orders already passed, the information was not readily available in the desired format.
Once compiled, the information would be provided to the petitioner.
K. Sivakumar, counsel for Perarivalan, said there was no transparency in the way the MHA was handling the remission files of convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
First, the Ministry rejected their premature release by issuing an order in the name of the President. However, it later came to light that the file was not referred to the President at all.
“When my client wanted copies, the MHA refused and stated the matter was sub judice…now they are saying no remission rules were formed. The Tamil NaduGovernor should not take these decisions into consideration while deciding on the remission proposal of the State Cabinet,” he said.