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Aspects of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten letters can stay redacted: UK tribunal


London, April 30

Certain aspects of the personal diaries and letters involving Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, his wife Edwina and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, at the heart of an appeal to decide whether they can be fully released for open public access, will remain redacted after a UK tribunal ruling.

Judge Sophie Buckley presided over the UK First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) appeal to determine the fate of some redacted sections of diaries and correspondence dating back to the 1930s.

The three-member tribunal concluded recently that Southampton University did not “hold” any correspondence entitled “letters from Lady Mountbatten to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the newly independent India (33 files, 1948-60), along with copies of his letters to her” as part of its Broadlands Archive and was only “physically safeguarding the papers” on its premises.

“The information was not owned by the University, and its use was restricted both in contract and in practice to physically safeguarding the papers. This is akin to the papers being held by an expert storage company,” the tribunal decision reads.

“Matters have moved on considerably since the decision notices… and the vast majority of the Mountbatten Papers have now been made public,” it points out.

Historian Andrew Lownie, who had launched a four-year-long battle for the release of the papers for his book ‘The Mountbattens: The Lives and Loves of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten’, described the entire process as a victory that came at a very high cost and believes his fight was on the “crucial principles of censorship and freedom of information”.

“It has been a pyrrhic victory. Over 35,000 pages, 99 per cent of an important historical collection, has been released which will be important to future scholars and it has been a victory for free speech, academic freedom, access to archives and against government censorship,” said Lownie.

“My legal challenge has cost me an enormous amount financially – some 300,000 pounds (USD 377,204), my savings for my old age and an inheritance for my children,” he said.

The author-historian, whose new book ‘Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’ is out next month, said even the redacted material in the diaries and letters is likely to be “innocent”.