STRATEGIC FORCES COMMAND EXEMPTION FROM THE AMBIT OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT

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Strategic Forced Command (SFC) which is also sometimes known as Strategic Nuclear Command, forms part of India’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA which is responsible for command and control decisions regarding India’s nuclear weapons programme). It was created on 4th of January, 2003 by Vajpayee Government. Air Marshal Teja Mohan Asthana became its first commander-in-chief.  It is responsible for the management and administration of the country’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.

Responsibility of SFC

It is the responsibility of the Strategic Forces Command to operationalize the orders of the NCA under the leadership of a Commander-in-Chief who is a Senior Officer. It has the sole responsibility of initiating the process of delivering nuclear weapons and warheads, after acquiring clear approval from the NCA.

The SFC manages and administers all strategic forces by exercising complete command and control over nuclear assets, and producing all contingency plans as needed to fulfill the required tasks. Since its inception, the SFC’s command, control and communication systems have been firmly established, and the command has attained a high state of operational readiness.

Right to Information Act

The Right to Information Act, 2005 mandates timely response to citizen’s requests for government information. It is an initiative taken by the Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a – RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information.

Nuclear Weapons Command Not to Come Under RTI Act

Information on the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile and any details on their testing have been put out of the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act except for information pertaining to corruption or human rights allegations.

Adding nearly 300 more public authorities by the end of the year to the existing 500 authorities to which RTI’s can be filed online, this is an exception to the approach of the Union Government which has been actively trying to broaden the access to RTI by adding public authorities.

This is the first addition by the Narendra Modi Government since the previous UPA regime added three more in 2011 to the list of public authorities that are exempted from the purview of the RTI. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) were added to the list of exempted public authorities.

Incidentally last year, a man who felt entitled after paying the modest statutory fee of Rs. 10 filed an RTI application seeking access to the nuclear launch codes. This was revealed after Vivek Kumar, deputy secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and an Indian Foreign Services (IFS) Officer, tweeted about the incident.

Though it was never officially confirmed, the request was presumably denied. Now that the Strategic Forces Command has been removed from the purview of the RTI, the official secrets regarding nuclear weapons cannot be invoked in the future.

 

Sanchayeeta Das

Associate

The Indian Lawyer and Allied Services

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