The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea by a 2006 Mumbai train bombings case convict against a Central Information Commission (CIC) order denying disclosure of information pertaining to the sanction granted for his prosecution under UAPA by the Maharashtra government.

Justice Yashwant Varma said the petition lacked merit and endorsed the CIC's view that such information was exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The Court observed petitioner Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique, a death row convict in the case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), failed to establish that some of the information sought was severable and fell outside the scope of the exemption under the law.

On July 11, 2006, seven explosions had ripped through seven western line local trains in Mumbai, leading to the death of 189 people and injuring 829.

Bearing in mind the provisions made in Section 45 of the UAPA, the court is of the firm opinion that the disclosures that were sought and in the broad terms as were prayed for in the application, the respondents rightly invoked Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, the Court said in its order.

Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act states disclosure of information 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 is exempted.

The submission of learned counsel (for the petitioner) that the CIC was obliged to consider whether the provisions of Section 10 of the RTI Act would apply and that whether certain aspects of the information sought were severable and thus fall outside the scope of clause (a) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act is liable to be rejected since the petitioner has even on a prima facie footing failed to establish what information that may ultimately lead to the issuance of the notification under Section 45 of the UAP Act would be severable. The writ petition lacks merit and shall stand dismissed, the Court said.

The petitioner had moved the High Court in 2020 challenging a 2019 CIC order denying his request for documents related to a 2007 notification empowering the secretaries of state governments to sanction prosecution for offences under the anti-terror law-UAPA.

In his plea moved through Advocate Arpit Bhargava, the petitioner had contended he was arrested in 2006 and the sanction for his prosecution was granted by the Maharashtra additional chief secretary in January 2007, six months before the notification was issued.

Therefore, the sanction granted was null and void for want of authorisation on the date it was issued, he had contended in his petition.

He had claimed in his plea that the "proposal and all other documents of respondent (MHA)/department's file related to the issue of notification dated June 21, 2007" will help show the sanction for his prosecution was granted wrongly.

Siddique claimed he was falsely implicated in the blasts case and therefore it amounts to violation of his human rights. He had said he requested for the information in 2017 through an RTI application to the MHA, which refused to provide it.

Thereafter, his appeal against the MHA decision was rejected on June 13, 2019 by the Central Information Commission (CIC), which said the information sought pertained to the security and sovereignty of the country and was, therefore, exempt from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The central government had earlier told the High Court the information sought pertained to the security, sovereignty and integrity of India and, therefore, it could not be disclosed.

Cause Title: Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique v. CPIO, Ministry of Home Affairs

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs