The Central Information Commission has directed the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of external affairs and home to make public the records of the Raj Narain committee, constituted in 1977 to look into the mysterious death of the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966.
The committee was reportedly constituted by the Janata Party government to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shastri on January 11, 1966 in Tashkent, hours after signing a declaration with Pakistan President Muhammad Ayub Khan post-1965 Indo-Pak war.
The records related to the committee are reportedly untraceable, the commission noted.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also directed the PMO, the MEA and the MHA to publish the statement of categories of documents regarding the death of the second prime minister of the country that are available with them.
“The public authorities referred above have a constitutional duty to inform and the people have legitimate expectation to know the truth behind the death of their beloved leader. More so, it is the primary responsibility of the PMO to inform the people what happened to late Lal Bahadur Shastri, who once was its head,” he said.
Acharyulu’s directive came on an RTI application seeking to know from the Home Ministry whether Shastri’s body was brought to India for cremation or he was cremated in the then USSR and copy of the post-mortem.
Shastri died in Tashkent where he had gone for talks with the Pakistan President moderated by Soviet premier Premier Alexei Kosygin.
Although he reportedly died from a massive heart attack, questions were raised on the circumstances of his death on foreign soil when cold war was at its peak.
The conspiracy theories were further fuelled after the central government started denying documents, under the RTI Act, related to his death calling them secret and disclosure prejudicial to the interests of the country.
The CIC in 2011 while hearing a separate case had directed disclosure of 11 pages related to the death of Shastri but allowed withholding one document of the External Affairs Ministry which had reference to ‘Mukti Bahini’.
The Home Ministry had transferred the present application of Navdeep Gupta to the National Archives of India (NAI).