NEWS
11/07/2020 10:34 AM IST

‘Lord Ram’s Descendant’ Files RTI For Details Of Ayodhya Temple Trust, Home Ministry Denies Info

The Amit Shah-led ministry did not give any reason for denying the information requested by Sushil Raghav, who claims he belongs to Lord Ram’s dynasty.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
A file photo of the entrance to the Ministry of Home Affairs in North Block, New Delhi.

NEW DELHI—The Amit Shah-led union home ministry has refused to provide any details, without giving any specific legal reason, about the trustees of the independent trust set up to oversee the construction of the Lord Ram temple in Ayodhya in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application.

“In this regard, it is informed that information(s) sought by you are falls under the section 8 of RTI Act 2005. Hence, information could not provided (sic.),” reads a single page reply given by Central Public Information Officer and Deputy Secretary V.S. Rana of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to Ghaziabad resident and RTI activist Sushil Raghav.  

Several clauses in section 8 of the RTI act detail the various legally acceptable exemptions from the obligation to provide information, but the home ministry’s reply quotes none of them. 

HuffPost India
Response from the ministry of home affairs under the right to information act.

In his application, Raghav sought information about six specific aspects of the trustees and the trust appointed by the Narendra Modi government in compliance with the Supreme Court’s judgment. These included the full list of their names, their locus standi for having been selected as trustees, copies of details of criminal cases registered as FIRs against them, copy of constitution of the trust, details about its funds and aims and objectives. 

Apart from these six questions, there is one more query in the Ghaziabad resident’s RTI application which stands out among them all and makes this whole exercise so peculiar. 

Raghav asked what action was taken in response to his request, sent months before he filed the RTI application in June, to be appointed to the trust set up for the construction of a ram temple in Ayodhya. He wanted the information along with the ‘daily progress report’ prepared within the home ministry on his request. 

In his request—which Raghav sent to the home ministry in early February and shared with HuffPost India recently—he claimed to be “hailing from dynasty of Lord Shri Ram or Ramlalla (juristic person)”. He also claimed that the surname Raghav is “derived from Raghu—descendants of Raghu the forefather of Lord Shri Ram.” 

In his reckoning, “being born in the Raghav lineage means a person who is descendant of Lord Ram”. The representation also maps out what he terms to be the family tree of Lord Ram.

In his reckoning, “being born in the Raghav lineage means a person who is descendant of Lord Ram”. The representation also maps out what he terms to be the family tree of Lord Ram.

While he sent his representation to the home ministry on February 6, it was apparently accepted on February 7. 

“I submitted this application in MHA and no reply/response was given by MHA therefore, I filed the RTI,” explained Raghav while speaking with HuffPost India to explain his rationale for filing his application for information on 13 June 2020. 

In an unusually quick response, within just a week, the home ministry responded to the application, denying his request under section 8. However, this appears to be an incomplete response as it doesn’t cite the clause which is attracted. In other words, no actual reason is given for denying Raghav the information he was seeking.

Section 8 of the RTI Act provides government officials legally acceptable reasons for “exemption from disclosure of information”. However, as several orders from the Central Information Commission record, the officials are mandated to mention which of the clauses from (a) to (j) in section 8 of the act is applicable in a given situation. 

In other words, the government officials are expected to be very specific and cite the exact legally acceptable reason for denying information to an RTI applicant. Otherwise, it becomes tantamount to denying disclosure for no reason and this is illegal. 

In his response, the MHA official has clearly failed to give any specific reason about why the information sought by Raghav could not be provided to him. 

In its judgment given in November 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the setting up of a trust to construct the temple for lord ram at the disputed site. On February 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the setting up of a trust. While some details about the members of this trust were announced by home minister Shah the same day, the full composition and other details remain unclear.