Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad has also marked a copy of his order to the Union Home Secretary with the recommendation that a committee should be constituted to identify such files of historical importance and ensure that these are handed over to the National Archives.
"It would also be in order that the process of transfer of files to the Archives, which was initiated in 1981 is monitored in the correct fashion so that chronology is maintained in the transfer of files. This would be a real treasure house for the researchers and scholars as well as the public at large while browsing through the pages of history," he noted in a recent order.
He directed the ministry to conduct a fresh search in the light of the document and if the file is traced, provide a copy of the certified information as sought by RTI applicant Sayed Khaliq.
The roots of the case go the late Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of the princely state who had nominated his grandson Nawab Mir Barkat Ali Khan, also known as Mukarram Jah Bahadur, as his successor making him the titular Nizam of Hyderabad.
He had sought necessary recognition of the government of India.
A "certificate of recognition" in favour of Mir Barkat Ali Khan as the ruler of the State of Hyderabad was issued by the union government with effect from February 24, 1967 -- the date on which the Nizam died.
After the death of the Nizam, Mr Khan came into possession of all the moveable and immovable properties of the Nizam making him one of the richest men in India.
The certificate remained the centre of several litigations filed by the relatives of Mr Khan, who was the titular Nizam of Hyderabad.
Mr Khaliq has now sought from the union home ministry a certified copy of the certificate from a file dated February 27, 1967.
The ministry transferred the application to National Archives of India or NAI, saying that around 1,981 instructions were received for transfer of old files to the Archives.
As per the list of transferred cases, this particular file was not received by NAI and hence it does not possess this file, the Archives official told Mr Azad who was hearing the matter.
"She (NAI official) further added that files held by them have been digitised and is available on their website. Thus though the PIO from National Archives is certain that no such file was received by them, the PIO from MHA did not appear certain about the existence of the file," Mr Azad noted.
He said it was interesting to note that the PIO, MHA has not even mentioned whether the document and file have been weeded out as per the retention schedule.
The MHA official also stated that the application does not refer to the subject matter of the file and the enclosure certificate mentioned therein is also missing from the RTI application received by them, Mr Azad said.
However, on being probed as to what the reference number of the file reveal about the subject matter possibly dealt with in the file, the MHA failed to respond, he said.
Mr Azad said it was unfortunate to note that a file containing such historical details and facts has not been handled in an appropriate manner.
"Since the certificate is present on record, there can be no doubt that the file did exist with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The MHA which is a repository of rare and priceless information, like in the instant case, is expected to be much more diligent in their record keeping. Hence an uncertain and ambiguous reply cannot be accepted from the PIO, MHA," he pointed out.
He said perusal of the RTI application itself reveals that the appellant sought certified copy of a particular certificate issued in 1967 under Article 366(22) of the Constitution vide which Nawab Mir Barkat Ali Khan Bahadur had been recognised as "the Ruler of Hyderabad" in succession to his grandfather.
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