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Classification of documents a top secret, says CIC

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As reported by Himanshi Dhawan, in The Times of India, New Delhi on 14 Mar 2010


NEW DELHI: How does the government classify documents as "confidential", "secret" and "top secret"? That's "top secret" information according to the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has refused to disclose documents outlining classification procedures.


The CIC's decision backs the government's plea that "individuals hostile to the nation" must not get to know the details of security strategy.


The manual of departmental security instructions contains instructions and procedures and guidelines for classification of documents for the competent officers. The government thinks it unadvisable to open such documents to public scrutiny. Information commissioner Sushma Singh ruled that the manual is a "kind of code for security classification".


Many say there could be merit in keeping parts of the manual out of the public domain, but it is hard to understand why the broad parameters cannot be shared.


In actual fact, admit officials, the process of marking "secret" can be fairly arbitrary except for sensitive communication.


This means there could be wide variations, with the bureaucracy loathe to part with information in any case.


The absence of a freedom of information Act that provides for time-bound declassification has given officialdom more power.


RTI applicant Venkatesh Nayak had asked for a copy of the manual including all office memoranda, circulars and standing orders relating to ''procedural matters'' connected with classification of official records.


In its response, home ministry CPIO S K Malhotra said that the manual deals with ''safeguarding such information in the possession of the government, the unauthorised disclosure of which would cause damage to national security or would cause embarrassment to the government in its functioning or would be prejudicial to national security.''


Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Classification-of-documents-a-top-secret-says-CIC/articleshow/5681164.cms

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