Modi Government Refused to Define 'Genocide' in Plea Before Information Panel

The information commission held that while India has ratified the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, no specific municipal law has been enacted which deals with or defines the term.

New Delhi: Though India ratified the Genocide Convention in 1959, many have held it to be in breach of its obligations as has it refused to accept the 1984 anti-Sikh violence or even the 2002 Gujarat riots as acts of “genocide”. Further, the Narendra Modi government has even refused to answer what constitutes a genocide and a riot.

The matter came to light recently in the Central Information Commission when an applicant, Navdeep Gupta, filed a plea under the Right to Information Act, 2005 with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). In his application, filed on July 16, 2017, Gupta sought the definition of “genocide” and “riot” in the annals of the government of India or under the law of the land.

The chief public information officer, who is an officer of deputy secretary rank, responded on July 27, 2017, stating that the information sought was not available with the MHA and transferred the RTI application to the CPIO of the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The law ministry, however, chose to maintain a studied silence on the issue. The applicant then moved the Central Information Commission where the matter was heard by information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad earlier this month.

During the hearing – in which both the parties were present and heard – Azad recorded that the public information officer (PIO) stated that a reply was furnished by the Department of Legal Affairs and the complainant was intimated that the definition of ‘rioting’ is enumerated under Section 146 of the Indian Penal Code. However, Azad noted that “the reply is silent with respect to the definition of ‘genocide’.”

He also recorded that the complaint insisted that the reply was not furnished to him by the Department of Legal Affairs through its PIO.

In view of the prevailing situation, the commission then directed the PIO of the Department of Legal Affairs to furnish a copy of the reply to the complainant afresh within two weeks.

No specific municipal law to define ‘genocide’

It also took “notice of the query as it relates to the definition of ‘genocide’,” and observed that “India has ratified the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, but no specific municipal law has been enacted which deals or defines the term ‘genocide’.”

With the government choosing not to define “genocide”, the commission also advised the complainant to “refer to the aforesaid convention”.