The disclosure of the files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by the West Bengal Government has put the central government under tremendous pressure to declassify the files in its possession. Available data indicates that there are a total of 41 files on Netaji with the central government, out of which two are declassified and the rest 39 are not.
After the West Bengal Government declassified the files/information in its possession, on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, there is considerable pressure on the NDA government at the centre to declassify the files in its possession. As per the available information, the Union Government, in its possession has 41 files on Bose out of which only two are declassified and are sent to the National Archives. The rest 39 files are yet to be declassified and successive governments have been refusing to declassify them.
The File Classification
There are four types of security classifications as given below. Files/papers contained sensitive information are classified into the following based on the content and procedure as decided by the government.
- Top Secret (TS) – Generally reserved for papers containing very sensitive information relating to national security etc.
- Secret (S) – Generally reserved for papers whose knowledge would cause administrative embarrassment or difficulty or internal breach of peace and amity or injury to the interest and prestige of the Government or would be of advantage to a foreign nation or enemy.
- Confidential (C) – Generally reserved for papers containing information, the unauthorized disclosure of which while would be prejudicial to the interests of the nation,
- Restricted (R) – Generally intended for restricted disclosure to a certain set of people and not for publication.
There could also be some files that are yet to be classified and they are indicated as Unclassified Files (U). These classified files are periodically declassified and put in the public domain.
The Government’s response
Successive governments (UPA & NDA) have been refusing to declassify the files they possess on Netaji. The Prime Minister’s office in November 2014, in response to a RTI application filed by Mr. Subhas Chandra Agarwal , said that it does have some files related to Netaji, but refused to disclose their contents.
In its reply, the PMO disclosed the list of files, but said the disclosure of the documents in the files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. The reply also said that these files are exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) read with 8(2), of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Sec 8(1)(a) of the RTI act is reproduced below.
The 41 Files
The RTI response by the PMO listed the 41 files held by the government on Netaji. Out of these 41, only two are declassified and are sent to the National Archives.
Out of the remaining the 39 files, four (4) are designated as Top Secret, twenty (20) are designated as Secret, five (5) are designated as Confidential and the remaining Ten(10) are Unclassified (yet to be classified).
The ‘Top Secret’ Files
Two of the four files designated as ‘Top Secret’ relate to the death/disappearance of Netaji (Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry). Another of this file relates to correspondence with the widow and daughter of Netaji and the last one refers to the transfer of Netaji’s ashes to India.
The Secret Files
Most of the secret files refer to the disappearance of Netaji and the appointment of an inquiry committee. One of these files refers to Bharat Ratna award and mentions three names other than Netaji.
The confidential files contain some letters and also have information about the funeral of Netaji’s widow. The Unclassified files seem to be very general in nature.
What is the NDA Government saying now?
The BJP while in the opposition had demanded the disclosure of these files. Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh as BJP President in January 2014 had demanded that “The mystery behind his death should be unveiled by the Union government to let the people know the truth.”
The BJP, now in power is citing the same reasons as the previous UPA government. It says that India’s relations with some foreign countries would be affected if these files are declassified. Only time will tell if they stick to their earlier demand of full disclosure.