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A Tribune Exclusive
MEA protecting individuals with criminal past: CIC
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
Ministry of External Affairs has come under severe criticism from the Central Information Commission (CIC) for trying to avoid sharing information regarding a red corner alert issued by the Interpol in regard to two Indian nationals and protecting them from being prosecuted.

The condemnation came from Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit as the MEA refused provide information on an application filed by one Ashwini Kumar Shrivastava saying that, “disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with a foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”.

While allowing the appeal, the Commission has also directed the CPIO of the ministry to provide complete information to the Appellant by September 15, under intimation to the Commission.

Shrivastava had sought to know from the MEA whether any red alert notice by Interpol and international arrest warrants was ever issued by German Judicial Authorities against Ashok Kumar Chauhan and Arun Kumar Chauhan, Directors of Amity International, Ghaziabad, UP.

He also wanted to know if the red corner alert had been issued and there were international arrest warrants against them, then whether the notice was served upon them (individually or both), what were the arrest warrants in regard to and what action had been taken by the government?

The MEA received the request in June last year and since then it travelled to Legal Cell of Ministry of Home Affairs and back to the MEA, but without any answers.

Incidentally, the Legal Cell of the MHA informed the appellant that requests for extradition (Execution of arrest warrant) under various Extradition Treaties was administered by the Ministry of External Affairs while red corner notices were dealt by the AD (Interpol), CBI and the requisite information may be available with these agencies.

In the meantime, the MEA responded to the transferred request from the Legal Cell of MHA in July last year denying the information under provisions of Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI ACT, 2005.

The denial from the MEA came despite information sought having already been made public in the Rajya Sabha in reply to a question.

The then Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs E. Ahmed had responded to the question admitting the issuance of such red corner notice and international arrest warrants giving the numbers of the red corner notices as 453/1990 and 459/1998.

The minister also stated that the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany in India had requested for legal assistance in serving documents/extradition of Ashok Kumar Chauhan and Arun Kumar Chauhan and that as per Article 6 of the Extradition Treaty between the Republic of India and the Federal Republic of Germany neither of the Contracting States shall be bound to extradite its own nationals.

However, as per the same article, criminal prosecution may be effected, in India. Therefore, Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the nodal Ministry in such matters have been requested to proceed in accordance with law, he said.

The appellant finally moved the CIC and Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit kept the date for first hearing for June 15 last. During the hearing, the appellant repeated his arguments and contended that the information regarding the two Directors was already in the public domain with several newspapers and magazines having covered the story, besides the question in Parliament.

The commission while allowing the appeal has pointed out that denial of information suggests corruption and the collusion of various officials in hushing up the case and has sought to know how the disclosure of information about the issuance of red corner notice by Interpol would harm the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the country. “It is therefore the view of the Commission that the provisions of the Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act 2005 are not attracted in this case since disclosure of information as sought by the Appellant in this case, is not likely to in anyway prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, nor can the disclosure of such information lead to any breach of security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, in relation with a foreign State,” Dixit said while allowing the appeal.

“The subject matter sought in the RTI request being related to a case of alleged fraud by two Indians mentioned hereinabove, and involving millions of Dollars, the possibility of corruption taking place at various levels in an effort to save the two individuals from being prosecuted as per the laws of this country, as alleged by the appellant, certainly cannot be ruled out,” she added.

In fact disclosure of such information will only be beneficial in boosting the integrity of Indian judicial system in the international scenario as also lead to transparency about such matters of international consequence. Hence it is in the larger public interest that such information should be made available to the public to promote the faith of people of not only India but also of the world on the Indian judicial system, she said.



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