DNA: Mumbai: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) in its order has rejected a plea of providing inquiry / investigation report of the collision and sinking of INS Vindhyagiri, that capsized off Mumbai harbour on January 31, 2011.
The RTI application was filed by DNA. Also denied by CIC is the information sought on the action taken against officers and people responsible for the collision and sinking. INS Vindhyagiri, a war ship had collided with a Cyprus flagged Merchant Vessel M V Nordlake. The public information officer (PIO) of the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) denied information citing section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, 2005. The section reads: "information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence."
The order which does not have a date of decision taken - the information commission office when contacted stated that the date of hearing is date of order - was passed by central information commissioner, Amitava Bhattacharya. It was received on October 18 after several follow ups from the commission which held the hearing on August 23, 2016. The order comes weeks after another order from central information commissioner, D P Sinha, which the navy to provide details of the inquiry report in which an aviator died. Father of an aviator who died had sought details of the inquiry report from the navy, which navy had denied.
The RTI application of May 29, 2013 sought action taken on officers and people found guilty, the year, price and whether the ward ship was made indigenously, the present status of it and its future plan, and initiatives taken by government to ensure no future collisions happen.
Upholding PIO's reply, the commission order stated: "On perusal of record, the commission came to be satisfied with the CPIO's plea about the exemption claimed u/s 8(1)(a) of the Act. It observed that parting of information about the investigation / inquiry report on the collision and sinking and action taken on such report may have a deleterious impact on the strategic interest of the country in this sector as stipulated in section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act."
"It is a very bad order. What is the point of having a second appeal if the commissions are just going to parrot what the public information officers say. There should be some explanation as to how the sections were applied. There are two possibilities in such a case. Either commission is convinced that authority should provide details, then it should direct the same. In other case, if they feel that strategic interest will be harmed, and that is what is told to them by the officers - even if privately - they should state that sharing the reasons too would damage the country. The order like this is a very bad order. In my case also two appeals have been rejected due to lack of understanding of the law," said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner.
Info provided by PIO
INS Vindhyagiri is a frigate and falls under the category of 'Major War Ship'. The ship was designed in Mazgaon Dock Ltd, Mumbai and was commissioned into Indian Navy on July 8 1981 at a cost of Rs 32 crores. The ship was decommissioned on 11 June 2012 (post collision) and subsequently disposed off as a 'target' at sea.