New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday put on hold a CIC order directing the Centre to disclose the pre-trial advice given by the Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch in connection with a 2012 clash between 100-odd soldiers of Ladakh-based 226 Field Regiment and their superiors.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani also issued notice to the RTI applicant, who is one of the soldiers involved in the clash, and listed the matter for further hearing on August 13.
The order came on the plea of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), represented by central government standing counsel Rahul Sharma and advocate C K Bhatt, which has challenged the January 2017 direction of the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) to provide the information sought by the RTI applicant, Gunner Bikramjit Singh.
The CIC order was initially challenged by MoD before a single judge who in May 2018 had dismissed the plea on the ground that it was filed after considerable delay.
The division bench agreed to hear the appeal against the single judge’s decision after Sharma and Bhatt told the court that documents had to be sent from Kargil and that is why there was a delay in challenging the CIC order.
The petition has claimed that the CIC completely misinterpreted the Right to Information (RTI) law by directing MoD to provide certified copies of the JAG’s pre-trial advice as the same was confidential and exempted from the purview of the Act.
According to the MoD plea, the incident had taken place on May 11-12, 2012 at Leh in Jammu and Kashmir after the soldiers heard a rumour that one of them had died after being badly beaten up by three officers for allegedly molesting an officer’s wife.
Around 100-odd soldiers allegedly ransacked the officers’ mess of their unit, injured several of their senior officers, misbehaved with their wives and had engaged in other incidents of unruly behaviour, the petition has claimed.
Singh, who was dismissed from service in 2015 after a Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) for his participation in the clash, had in December 2015 sought information regarding the advice given by JAG in the matter.
He is lodged in a central jail at Hoshiarpur serving a prison term of 10 years as punishment, as per the petition.