Over a year after Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui, a prime accused in the 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts case, wrote to the Delhi high court seeking permission to receive some publications on homoeopathy, the court is likely to take up the matter on Thursday.
Siddiqui is currently lodged in the central prison in Mumbai. Early last year, he had filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, seeking copies of all 45 books published by the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH), Delhi, so he could study.
However, the CCRH turned his request down on the ground that these were “priced publications” and hence could not be given out free of cost. His request for soft copies was also turned down, citing copyright laws. Siddiqui was asked to pay about Rs50,000 to avail the information.
After his pleas to the CCRH and the Central Information Commission were turned down, Siddiqui drafted a letter and mailed it to the Delhi high court in April last year. The letter was converted into a PIL by the court.
The proceedings on Siddiqui’s plea are likely to have far-reaching consequences, as they will determine the rights of prisoners, particularly their right to information and education.
Siddiqui argued that as he fell in the below poverty line category, a fact verified by the Bombay high court registrar, he should be given this information free of cost as per Section 7(5) of the RTI Act. He had further stated that since the state was curbing his right to earn a living by incarcerating him, the state must ensure that he is provided the publications.
According to senior advocate Sumeet Pushkarna, who has been appointed the amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, Siddiqui is yet to be proven guilty and there is a possibility that he might be acquitted. “Just because his liberty is curbed due to detention, doesn’t mean that his RTI and the RTE, among other things, also get curbed,” Pushkarna said.
However, if his plea is allowed, then the next question that arises is who pays for the information availed. Will it be the state, the jail authorities, or the CCRH?
Siddiqui has also urged the Delhi HC that he be allowed to be present for every hearing in the matter.