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The court found the privilege claimed by the Union of India untenable
HYDERABAD: Justice L. Narasimha Reddy of the A.P. High Court on Wednesday directed the Union government to make public the chapter eight of the Justice Srikrishna Committee report pertaining to law and order and internal security dimensions.
The court found the privilege claimed by the Union of India as untenable and withholding the chapter as unreasonable and unconstitutional. At the same time, the court made it clear that it did not express any opinion on the alternatives suggested by the committee.
Expressing dismay at the tone and tenor of the contents of this chapter, Justice Narasimha Reddy said that the committee had travelled beyond the terms of reference in its ‘endeavour' to persuade Union of India not to accede to the demand for Telangana. This was demonstrated in a three-page supplementary note whose contents, he said, amounted to ‘manifest political despondency'.
The judge said that the “manoeuvre” suggested by the committee in its secret supplementary note posed an open challenge, if not threat, to the very system of democracy. The judge gave two weeks' time for making this chapter public. He said a meaningful discussion on the report cannot take place unless it is made public. He said the comments and the judgment should not be construed as expressing any opinion on any of the alternatives suggested by the committee or limiting the government's power to take decision on the issues concerned.
Justice Narasimha Reddy was delivering the final judgment in the writ petition filed by a former MP, M. Narayan Reddy, contending that the government could not withhold the chapter as it was vital for forming an opinion on the issue.
Claiming privilege, the government said that this chapter and the secret note cannot be divulged. It averred that the petitioner had no fundamental right to get a copy of the chapter which contained sensitive information based upon inputs from intelligence.
At the initial stages of adjudication, the government produced a copy of the withheld portions in a sealed envelope and requested the judge to read it. The judge said the report needed to be made public but provided an opportunity to the Union of India to file a counter and argue the case. After the final arguments were over last week, the judge delivered a 58-page judgment.
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