Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Directorate of Personal Services, Air Headquarters Indian Air Force (IAF) has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing the disclosure of information of the Prime Minister’s entourage under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The writ petition has been filed through central government senior panel counsel Rahul Sharma and advocate C K Bhatt.
According to LiveLaw, the CPIO has submitted that Special Flight Returns-II relates to official records of functioning and working of the security apparatus of the Prime Minister of India which cannot be brought in public domain for safety and security reasons.
The plea reads, “The information so sought includes details related to the entire entourage, names of Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel accompanying the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on foreign tours for his personal safety, and the same, if disclosed, can potentially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State.”
It was further submitted by the CPIO that the CIC made grave error in law as well as on facts, as it ignored that the details of the SPG are explicitly exempted from the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005 by virtue of section 24(1) read with the Schedule II of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Section 24(1) of the RTI Act lays down that the said Act would not apply to the intelligence and security organisations established by the Central Government except instances of corruption allegations and human rights violations.
The petitioner further submitted that disclosure of Special Flight Returns-II could lead to identification of the source of information or assistance given, in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.
This would stand in contravention of section 8(1) (g) of the RTI Act as the provision lays down that any information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes is strictly exempted from disclosure to any citizen.
What was the CIC order?
On July 8, 2020 the CIC had directed the Indian Air Force to provide certified copies of available and relevant Special Flight Returns-ll to RTI applicant Commodore (retd) Lokesh K Batra. He had sought certified copies of SRF-I and SRF-II with regard to each foreign visit of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as also Prime Minister Narendra Modi from April 2013 onwards.
“In view of the foregoing, Commission directs the CPIO to provide the certified copies of available and relevant SFR II as sought in the RTI Application after severing the name and other relevant identifying particulars of the security/SPG personnel figuring therein. The severance of record is to be followed in consonance to the provisions of Section 10 of the RTI Act. The said information shall be provided free of cost to the Appellant within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order and a compliance report to this effect be duly sent to the commission by the CPIO. The appeal is disposed of accordingly”, the order read.