The Prime Minister has no power to declassify secret files relating to the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Prime Minister’s Office has clarified in an RTI reply.
“There are no mentions in Manual of Office Procedure or Public Records Rules, 1997, regarding any discretionary power vested in PM to de-classify records,” the PMO said.
Sreejith Panickar, an IT professional based in Thiruvananthapuram, had sent an RTI application to the PMO asking, “Does the Prime Minister have any prerogative to issue an order to declassify the files and send them to the National Archives?”.
Last year, when Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Agarwal appealed to the PMO to disclose records relating to Netaji it had had refused arguing that the “disclosure would prejudicially affect relation with foreign countries”.
When under house arrest by the British in then Calcutta, Netaji had escaped in 1941 to seek international support for his efforts to free his country and formed the Indian National Army with Japanese help.
He went missing in 1945 and since then little has been known about his whereabouts. The Mukherjee Commission had rejected reports that he had died in a plane crash in Taihoku airport in Taiwan on August 18, 1945.
Panickar, a part of research group ‘Mission Netaji’, had also asked the exact number of secret Bose files.
“As per record, this Office has 41 classified files,” the PMO said while giving out names of 36 such files.
It said that the remaining five files are exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) read with 8(2), of the Right To Information Act, 2005.
The section deals with disclosure 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.
According to the list of the classified files whose names have been disclosed, a file dealing with the funeral of Netaji’s widow in Germany in 1996 has been classified as ‘Confidential’; whereas another file about Netaji’s widow and daughter has been classified as ‘Top Secret’.
One file concerning the abortive bid to confer Bharat Ratna on Netaji in 1992 is stamped ‘Secret’.
Also classified as Secret is a file dealing with the ‘disposal of properties of INA in Far East’.
One of the secret files relates to construction of an INA memorial in New Delhi as suggested by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, then Chief Minister of Haryana.
A file on transfer of his ‘ashes’ to India is classified as ‘top secret’.