Court Orders Declassification Of Documents Shedding Light On UK’s Involvement In Operation Bluestar

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New Delhi:  A judge in the United Kingdom has ruled declassification of documents that are expected to shed further light on Britain’s involvement in Operation Bluestar in 1984. The court has dismissed the government’s argument that the move could damage diplomatic ties with India.

Judge Murray Shanks, who presided over a three-day hearing of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) in London in March, on Monday ruled that a majority of the files relating to the period must be made public and rejected the UK government’s argument that declassifying the Downing Street papers would damage diplomatic ties with India.

The judge, however, did accept that one file marked “India: Political”, from the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), could contain information that relates to British spy agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (government communications headquarters) and therefore the cabinet office was entitled to rely on a technicality that exempts such material from the freedom of information (FOI) request appeal.

“We recognise that the period we are concerned with was a highly sensitive one in India’s recent history and the strength of feeling it continues to evoke… it should also be remembered that 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,” the judgment notes.

The FOI appeal was handled by KRW Law on behalf of freelance journalist Phil Miller, who has been investigating the exact nature of the then Margaret Thatcher led government’s assistance to the Indian Army operation at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

In 2014, UK government documents declassified under the 30-year rule to make such material public had revealed that British military advice was given to Indian forces prior to the Bluestar.

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