UK Judge Orders Release of Documents Related to Operation Blue Star
Upholding an appeal made by a freedom of information campaigner, the judge ordered that the documents will have to be published by July 12 this year.
The United Kingdom government was ordered by a judge on June 11 to make public the documents related to Operation Blue Star, as this could help in the assessment of Britain’s involvement in the incident that happened in India in 1984. The judge dismissed the UK government’s argument that the move could hamper diplomatic ties between India and the United Kingdom.
The British government has one month to appeal the decision by a UK information tribunal, the Hindu reported. “We recognize that the period we are concerned with was a highly sensitive one in India’s recent history and the strength of feeling it continues to evoke… it should also be remembered that the fact that 30 years has gone by is bound to have reduced any prejudice that may have resulted from release of the withheld material,” the judgement stated.
Judge Murray Shanks presided over a three-day hearing of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) in London in March. The hearing had opened in London, aiming to determine if the UK’s Information Commissioner was right in upholding the Cabinet Office’s decision to keep the files away from public.
Judge Shanks delivered his verdict, stating that most of the files that were related to the period should be made public. Upholding an appeal made by a freedom of information campaigner, the judge ordered that the documents will have to be published by July 12, 2018, the daily reported. The appeal was related to three of four files, which the UK government has resisted from declassifying.
KRW law represented freelance journalist Phil Miller, who has been investigating the role of the Margaret Thatcher-led UK government’s role in the operation conducted by the Indian Army at the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.
However, the judge did accept that a file marked “India: Political,” from the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) could have information related to British spy agencies like MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). Hence he said that the UK Cabinet Office was eligible to count on a technicality exempting material of this kind from the Freedom of Information (FOI) request appeal, PTI reported.
Acknowledging the importance of India in the world and of the relationship between the two countries, Shanks noted how the documents, released in error in 2014, had not generated a hostile reaction from India.
The judge rejected the argument of one of the witnesses of the UK government. The witness claimed that releasing the documents could have a damaging effect on the bilateral relations between United Kingdom and India as it could appear that the UK government did not see the activities of Sikh extremists with enough concern and was not very tough on them.
“We do not give much weight to this point… anyone concerned would be well aware of the perceived UK failures,” judge Shanks wrote in his judgement, adding that, in contrast, the documents showed how these issues were given importance at senior levels, as per the Hindu.
The Sikh Federation (UK) had earlier launched a process for judicial review into the nature of the country’s alleged involvement in Operation Blue Star of 1984 to mount pressure on the UK government.