Terming the records pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination a part of India's “cultural heritage,” the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre how it intends to collect and maintain the entire case information as was directed by transparency panel Central Information Commission (CIC).
The poser by Justice Vibhu Bakhru came while hearing a plea by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) challenging an order of the CIC which had directed it to provide the police investigation's original records, including the case diaries and final chargesheet, to an RTI applicant.
The CIC had also directed the Delhi Police to provide information about efforts made by it to arrest three absconders – Gangadhar Dahawate, Surya Dev Sharma and Gangadhar Yadav.
The Home Ministry told the court that it was not the authority which had all the information and it would probably be available with the Ministry of Culture, the National Archives, or the Delhi Police.
It also told the court that the Ministry of Culture was working on collecting and preserving the information pertaining to the case as the directions were also issued to it by the CIC.
The court, however, said if the records were not available with the Home Ministry, it can access or call for the same from other authorities. It asked the Home Ministry how it intended to ensure maximum implementation of the objective of the CIC order.
"Tell us how you are going to do it," it queried, and the ministry's lawyer said he will have to seek instructions.
The court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on 12 February.
The CIC order had come on a plea by Odisha-based RTI applicant Hemant Panda who had told the commission that he was a researcher and was interested in studying the records pertaining to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi who was shot dead on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a right-wing activist.
Panda had claimed that he had studied the records, including those in the repository of the National Archives of India (NAI), but could not find two important documents – the final chargesheet by the Delhi Police and order of execution of Godse.
In his RTI application, Panda had raised three queries on which he needed clarity – the efforts made to arrest the absconders in the case, the reasons for acquitting other two accused, and whether a copy of final chargesheet and order of execution of Godse are missing from the records.
The CIC had directed Delhi Police to transfer its original records, which show its efforts to trace the absconders in the case, to the NAI for preservation.
The commission had also noted that there was "no official compilation of records at one place about his death.”
"The police have a duty to explain what efforts were taken to arrest three absconding accused or why they could not be traced. The Ministry of Home Affairs has an onerous responsibility to take up this task and place all of those records with the NAI for general access of the public," the CIC had said.
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