The Hindu – Centre ‘in the dark’ on Jammu and Kashmir detentions, restrictions

To an RTI query, Union Home Ministry says it has no information and directs applicant to the J&K administration.

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 06 October 2019. The Home Ministry does not have information on any orders passed to block telecommunications and Internet, suspend radio and satellite television services, evacuate tourists and detain political leaders and activists in Jammu and Kashmir in August.

The Ministry says it has no information on the names and locations of the detainees, and directed any queries to the State administration.

In response to a recent Right to Information request to share copies of such orders, directions or advisories, two Central public information officers of the Ministry’s J&K division said the information was not available with them.

The Ministry said, “The information might be available with the State government of J&K.”

However, the RTI application could not be forwarded to the J&K government as the RTI Act, 2005 is not applicable in the State, said the response. According to it, a separate application could be filed under the State’s RTI law. This option is only available to the State’s residents.

A senior official in the J&K government said Central laws, including the RTI Act, 2005, would come into effect in J&K only when it became a Union Territory on October 31.

Venkatesh Nayak, the activist who filed the RTI request, noted that the State of J&K had been under President’s Rule since December 19, 2018 and how was it possible that the Home Ministry did not have information on orders imposing travel and telecom restrictions.

“All powers of the Governor and the State Legislature stand transferred to the President of India. The work of the State Government is being carried out under the guidance of the Central Government through the State’s Governor who has only babus to run the administration,” he said on 06 October.

“Any order imposing curbs on travel and telecommunications will at least be copied to the Union Home Ministry in which the J&K Division is housed, if not actually directed by the MHA. So the CPIOs’ replies that they have no information about the curbs imposed and the arrests and detention of residents of J&K are not based on truth and reality,” he said on 06 October.

Mr Nayak filed his RTI application on August 30, almost a month after the shutdown of the State in preparation for the government’s announcement regarding the amendment of Article 370. Apart from copies of the relevant orders, he asked for the names of the political leaders and activists under detention or custody, the addresses where they are being held, and the law under which they were detained.

Pass the question

The first CPIO, T Sreekanth, said no information was available with them, and passed on the query to the second CPIO. She responded that the “information sought by you is not available with the undersigned CPIO.”

Instead, she directed the RTI applicant to the J&K State government for further queries.

An earlier request by RTI activist Nutan Thakur for a copy of the Ministry’s file on the decision to amend Article 370 had been denied, citing exemptions allowed under the RTI Act without specifying the specific reason for exemption being claimed.