CIC directed PMO to provide historical details about National Symbols.
Central Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has directed the PMO to initiate a fresh enquiry and trace the historical facts and footsteps that led to the Jana Gana Mana and Vande Matharam being accorded the status of national anthem and national song, respectively.
He slammed the government for not furnishing the said information initially breaching people’s right to information about their national anthem and song.
Acting on a plea by RTI applicant Harinder Dhingra, who had filed an RTI with the PMO in 2016 asking for certification and copies of details with respect to certain national symbols but witnessed spurt of departmental transfers without realising his goal even post the grind, the CIO directed the respective authorities to provide the sought information and slammed them for shirking off their responsibility, within two months of the order.
Dhingra had sought information regarding the national anthem, national song, national animal and bird, the national flower and the national game. His plea was further forwarded by the PMO to the MoEF.
The CIO slammed the authorities for simply passing on the plea seeking information on these national aspects to other departments, ‘without application of mind’.
He stated, ‘This silence gives rise to doubts whether the Union Government has any records about Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram.’
He said the non-response by the PMO and MoEF to request for information about national anthem and song is not proper and legal. ‘Before punishing the people for not standing/respecting the national anthem, they should be informed its greatness,’ the CIO further added.
He also directed the MoEF to provide entire information, collected from its various wings, along with the copies of the files pertaining to conferring national status to animal, bird and flower, without further transferring the RTI application in bits and pieces to different departments.
The CIO highlighted the irresponsible manner of dealing with the query and observed, ‘Interestingly, the PMO ignored national anthem-related questions and the MoEF does not have anything to say about tiger and peacock being given national status. They ask the National Tiger Conservation Authority to tell about peacock and lotus!’
‘More surprisingly, the Additional Inspector General of Tiger Authority of NCTA says his office does not have any knowledge about conferring national status to the tiger. And, he sends it back to another wing of the MoEF, (Wild Life Division), which did not respond at all,’ he further added.
He said it is quite pathetic to know that the MoEF does not have official records regarding the national animal, national bird and national flower. It reflects the condition of maintenance of records, he said.
The commission expressed regret over the routine and procedural manner adopted by the Central government to deal with the RTI query, which reeks of red-tapism and shirking the responsibility, which are the ‘biggest obstructions to access to the information’.
During the hearing, the Environment Ministry had produced a letter of 2011, which said since the records were not forthcoming about national animal status, tiger and peacock were being re-notified as the national animal and national bird, respectively. To this, the commissioner observed that the MoEF lost those significant records and only because of the RTI application, it re-notified the national status to tiger and peacock.
The CIC said ‘the commission cannot approve and will not take the pathetic defence of the MoEF that records were lost’ and directed the MoEF to enquire into the loss of records of notification of national animal and national bird.
Acharyulu also observed the lack of official information about national sport of India and directed the MoEF to transfer the sports part of RTI question to the Ministry of Sports, which is further directed to inform the appellant about the details of India’s national sport with certified copies of relevant records.
Reminiscing the events that led to adoption of the two songs known to have ever enthused the listeners with patriotic fervor, the Information Commissioner said: ‘All this necessitates an official dossier from the Government of India, based on thorough research of records in response to this RTI question to provide an authentic answer to doubts and to remove misunderstandings among the people about Jana Gana Mana.’
He said such documentation and investigation would be crucial in the backdrop of the irresponsible claims doing rounds in the social media, creating doubts and controversies around the historically significant songs.
Such information which establishes the historically authenticity would put an end to such propaganda and help restore faith in the rich heritage and historical magnanimity, the songs represent.
Read the order here.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.