British government papers on Indo-British relations from 1983 – 1985 must be declassified, an information tribunal has ruled.
The UK government had persistently resisted the release of the documents, which are thought to relate to the Indian Army attack on Darbar Sahib in 1984.
Judge Murray Shanks issued the judgement yesterday, saying that the government had to release the papers by July 12th if it did not appeal the decision.
The government’s argument that such a release would damage diplomatic relations with India was dismissed by the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). The judgement said: ‘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’. This was with the exception that one file could be retained because it was from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which oversees the British security services.
The tribunal held arguments over three days in March in secret under unusually strict conditions. The case was brought forward by investigative journalist Phil Miller, who first uncovered the original evidence of British involvement in Operation Blue Star, and subsequently authored the Sikh Federation UK report Sacrificing Sikhs. Regarding the judgement, Miller said in a statement to the Economic Times: ‘After nearly four years of asking for disclosure of these files, it is a great victory for a judge to rule that more transparency would not harm diplomatic ties or risk national security’.
The Cabinet Office has said it will respond in due course. It has two options: appeal against the decision by July 11th or release the documents to Miller by July 12th.
For more information on Sikh community reaction to this news or to arrange interviews, email Sukh@SikhPA.com.