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Govt of India denies information on gangster Chhota Rajan's passport under RTI, says it's a "personal" matter

By Our Representative
The Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) has rejected the release, under the right to information (RTI) Act, to records relating to the issue of the fake passport of top underworld don Chhota Rajan, whose capture in Indonesia last month was sought to be projected as a major breakthrough by the Government of India.
Upon his arrest in Indonesia, the media reported that he was traveling with a false identity and used a fake passport, which played a key role in his eventual identification by the immigration authorities.
“The MEA invoked Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act to reject the request holding that it was ‘personal information' and also cited a judgment of the Delhi High Court in support of its rejection”, said Venkatesh Nayak, well-known RTI and human rights activist in an email alert.
“In this case the High Court overturned an order of the Central Information Commission to disclose certain information relating to an individual's passport citing absence of public interest”, Nayak, who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said.
“It is not clear whose privacy MEA is desirous of protecting - the fake individual in whose name the passport was issued or the individual who used the fake passport”, wondered Nayak, adding, “It is also strange that a few months ago the same Government expressed doubts about whether Article 21 of the Constitution was correctly interpreted to include the right to privacy of individuals.”
Argued Nayak, “The very constitutional basis for Section 8(1)(j) as a trump on citizens' right to information has disappeared thanks to the submissions of the Government of India made through the Attorney General of India.”
Nayak said, “The MEA gave a vague reply to the query about the procedures followed to determine the legality and correctness of the procedures followed for issue of fresh passports by Indian missions abroad”, adding, “It only replied with information that is already known about the laws and rules that apply for the issue of passports.”
In yet another application filed by Nayak with CBI seeking a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998 in relation to issue of the fake passport, Nayak said, “More than 30 days have passed since the RTI application was dispatched to the CBI via speed post. The CBI has not bothered to reply.”
This has happened despite the fact that the print and electronic media reported that the fake passport had been issued in the name of a person alleged to be a resident of Karnataka. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is said to have registered a First Information Report against unnamed officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and launched an investigation.
Nayak said, all this poses a “challenge” before various constitutional courts, adding, “It is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister's noble commitment to make the Central Government more transparent and accountable to the people has simply not percolated down the bureaucracy.”

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