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Mumbai train blasts: HC quashes death row convict’s plea seeking info under RTI

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition by a death row convict in the 2006 Mumbai train blast case seeking disclosure of information pertaining to the ban imposed on terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen.

Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique had filed an application under the RTI Act seeking “background notes” of the Centre and reports of state governments of Gujarat, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh in relation to the ban on the organisation, which was stated to have carried out the blast. The outfit was proscribed under the stringent anti-terror law Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The petitioner challenged in the high court an order passed by the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) on June 13, 2019 denying him the information on the ground that it was covered under the exemptions provided in the RTI Act.

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While refusing to interfere with the CIC’s decision, Justice Prathiba M Singh said the information sought by the petitioner has far reaching consequences and has to be seen from the “larger issue of safety and security of the public and the nation”. It said the information Siddique has sought, if provided, will have a bearing on sovereignty and security of the country.

“A perusal of the information shows that the same has far reaching consequences. The same organisation is stated to be involved in various unfortunate incidents since 2005, some resulting in severe loss of life and property,” said the court.

It observed that the disclosure of the information sought by the petitioner can “jeopardize the sources” of the government in relation to the ban on Indian Mujahideen and the CIC’s opinion that sharing the information would endanger the sources is “correct and does not require interference”.

“In view of the above, the writ petition is devoid of merit and is dismissed,” ruled the court.

Advocate Arpit Bhargava, representing the petitioner, contended the information sought in the RTI application was needed to prove the innocence of the petitioner in the criminal case and there was no further need to maintain confidentiality in relation to the “background notes” and the reports of the states as Indian Mujahideen has already been declared a banned organisation under UAPA.

The counsel for the Centre said the information in question cannot be disclosed as it is confidential and disclosure will be against public interest.

Siddique was awarded capital punishment for the July 11, 2006 serial blasts when seven bombs packed with RDX ripped through many western line local trains in Mumbai killing 189 peeople and injuring 829.

The petitioner, currently lodged in a prison, claimed in his plea he was falsely implicated by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Mumbai in the train blasts case.

The trial court’s order of sentence is still pending confirmation by the Bombay High Court and the reports of the state governments and the Centre’s background notes would prove the innocence of the petitioner as well as violation of his human rights, the plea said.

Last year, the high court had dismissed another petition by Siddique challenging a CIC order denying disclosure of certain information pertaining to the sanction granted by the Maharashtra government for his prosecution under UAPA.

The high court had earlier this year rejected his petition seeking reports submitted by the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments regarding investigation into the train bombings.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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