New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs has refused to answer an RTI query on the issue of facilitating UK travel documents for former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi – claim that some queries didn’t fall within the ambit of the legislation, while “no information was available” for the rest with the office of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Interestingly, the questions to the RTI were the exact seven queries posed by former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram at a press conference in Chennai on June 18. The RTI application was filed online on the same day.
The ministry gave a response within eight days. “Kindly note that the office of External Affairs minister (EAM) has informed that the questions in Serial 1 to 3 of your RTI does not seem to fall under the purview of the RTI act, 2005,” said the reply of MEA in its letter dated June 26.
The three questions were on why Sushma Swaraj had not advised Lalit Modi to apply for an Indian travel document to go to Portugal, and not facilitate an UK travel document. It also asked why Swaraj did not insist on Modi’s return to India as a condition for issuing a temporary Indian travel document?
Further, it queried why the government was not releasing the letters exchanged between the Indian finance minister and UK chancellor of exchequer George Osborne.
For the last four questions, MEA said, “no information was available with the MEA’s office”.
In its reply, MEA also said that it was transferring the RTI application to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs and MEA’s own Consular, Passport and Visa division to give their individual responses with regard to the four queries.
Again, all the four questions were in the same language used by Chidambaram, which asked for proof and file notings on the subject of the ministry not moving the Supreme Court after the Delhi high court revoked the cancellation of Modi’s passport.
The questions also related to whether India ever objected to the grant of a long term visa or residency permit to Lalit Modi, who has appeared before the ED.
Incidentally, while the EAM’s office may not have said it doesn’t have information on this aspect, the government of India, during UPA, had told UK that providing any travel documents to Modi would be inimical to bilateral relations. This ‘veto’ was removed by Swaraj when she spoke personally to the UK high commissioner to India, James Bevan in July last year.
The last two questions was on the government’s position on Lalit Modi’s claim that his life was in danger in India, as well as whether the NDA government has taken any steps after the issue of fresh passport to “enforce the summons issues by the ED”.
Express contacted the applicant of the RTI query, who readily admitted that the questions were copied as he wanted to hear the government’s answer. The RTI applicant did not want to be identified, stating that he was not an activist or aligned to any party, but only a “citizen of India”.
While the MEA’s RTI reply had been posted on the website, the letter had yet to reach the applicant, who was surprised to hear that the ministry had already responded.
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