Acting on an RTI query seeking details of the Prime Minister’s foreign trips, the Central Information Commissioner has observed that without due examination of the file, it cannot be decided that whether the sought information contains security-related information.
Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur has directed the CPIO, PMO, that one representative file be produced before the commission by 18.11.2016.
Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh K. Batra was denied information related to billing and procedure involved in PM Narendra Modi’s foreign visits which he sought through an RTI application dated 14.08.2015.
The authorities stated that such details were of sensitive nature and disclosure of information would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and hence were exempted under section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act.
The petitioner had requested for inspection of all files and records related to details of expenses incurred on air travel in respect of foreign visits of Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers, the laid-down instructions and procedures involved in chartering flights for the PM’s foreign visits and later filing ‘flight returns’ and raising bills/invoices and clearing bills on completion of the visit, copy of bills etc. The only response the petitioner secured from the authorities early this year was that ‘after the completion of the visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the bills received are forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office for settlement. ‘
Apart from denial of information, the petitioner also pointed out the inordinate delay in replying and processing of his application and pleaded for appropriate action to be taken for causing mental harassment. He also claimed that travel bills and process for settlement of the same do not contain details of security. Therefore, the security reason does not arise in providing the requisite information in the public interest.
In the context of thousands of crores being spent out of tax payer’s money to bail out Air India, the appellant stated that the issue is of prime national importance. Referring to the crores of outstanding dues to be paid to Air India for PM’s visits, he stated that there is a need for reforms by understanding the causes of long delays in payments to Air India.
Read the order here.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.