Facing flak for stating there was no human rights violation in the Sukma Naxal attack in which 25 CRPF personnel were killed, the force today tried to do some damage control claiming its version was “misinterpreted”. It also said that the development painted the force in “bad light”. The matter pertains to an RTI application filed by human rights activist Venkatesh Nayak seeking an inquiry report in the April 24 Sukma attack. “I would like to obtain the following information… as prima facie, it pertains to allegations of violation of the right to life of CRPF personnel who were killed in the attack that occurred on April 24, 2017 in Sukma, Chhattisgarh,” the application stated.
“I believe this is a fit case for disclosure of information under the second proviso of section 24 of the RTI Act. Kindly obtain the approval of the Central Information Commission (CIC) prior to disclosing the information…,” it said. The force is exempted from making disclosures under the RTI Act, but the second proviso of Section 24(1) of the Act allows disclosure of information sought if it pertains to allegations of human right violations and corruption. In order to disclose the information pertaining to the human rights violation, the force needs to refer the matter to the Central Information Commission.
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In response to the application, the CRPF, in addition to citing section 24(1) (which exempts it from the RTI Act) and security issues in the report had said there appeared to be no violation of human rights in the instant matter. “In the instant matter, there appears to be no violations of human rights as well as the facts of the case do not attract allegations of corruption. Moreover, your application does not make any reference to such allegations. Hence, this department is not liable to provide any information in this regard to you under RTI Act, 2005,” it said.
Finding itself in an embarrassing position after the response, the CRPF issued a statement saying, “This RTI reply has been misinterpreted and the news item is contrary to facts and paints the force in a bad light.” “This department has replied that security forces including CRPF are exempted from providing information, except those queries related to allegations of corruption/violation of human rights under Section 24(1) of RTI Act-2005,” it said. The force added it had categorically intimated Nayak that the inquiry report contained various security and tactics related issues which cannot be shared under the RTI Act on the grounds that it might adversely affect the organisation’s strategic response. There was, however, no mention of the human rights violation issue in the CRPF statement.