The Union Ministry of External Affairs has conceded that the Centre has been imparting long-term and short-term training in technical and non-technical streams for Sri Lankan Navy personnel in order to enhance maritime security in the region.
However, it has refused to disclose details of training modules and domestic locations where such training is being imparted on the ground that they relate to information shared with a foreign country and, therefore, exempted from being disclosed under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Mayank Joshi, Deputy Secretary (Sri Lanka) and Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Ministry, had made the observation in reply to an RTI application filed by K.K. Ramesh, Managing Trustee of Tamil Nadu Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a Madurai-based NGO.
The CPIO also said All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Member of Parliament P. Venugopal, representing Tiruvallur constituency, had raised a similar question in the Lok Sabha and wanted to know the details of training imparted to Lankan Navy personnel.
Answering the question on February 5 this year, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur had said: “Training exchanges are conducted regularly between defence personnel of India and various neighbouring countries, including Sri Lanka.
“Training assistance to Sri Lankan Navy officers is being undertaken by (the) government with a view to further enhancing maritime security in the region. Short-term and long-term training programmes, in technical and non-technical streams, are conducted for armed forces personnel of foreign countries, including Sri Lanka.”
The RTI applicant had made an identical application to the Union Ministry of Defence too. But it was rejected by its Under Secretary Prem Prakash on the ground that the information sought for could not be provided in view of the bar on disclosing classified information.
Nevertheless, armed with the External Affairs Ministry’s reply, Mr.Ramesh filed a public interest litigation petition in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to restrain the Centre from providing training to the Lankan Navy.
The case came up before a Division Bench comprising Justices A. Selvam and V.S. Ravi on Tuesday, and it directed the High Court Registry to post it before a Division Bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and V.M. Velumani on Wednesday.
Courtesy: The Hindu