Delhi High Court stays CIC Order Directing Air Force to Disclose RTI Information About Prime Ministers’ Entourage on Foreign Trips

    The Delhi judicature on 11th December, 2020 set to place a remain on the order glided by the Central Information Commissioner (CIC). The order directed the Indian Air Force to reveal RTI information in relevance to former and current Prime Minister that is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suite on numerous foreign journey severally. The keep order came after a petition was filed by the Indian Air Force against the orders of the Chief Information Commission.

    The interim stay was granted by a single judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla to the Air Force. Indian Air Force had filed a petition against an order dated 8th July 2020, which directed the CPIO, Directorate of Personal Services, Air Headquarters, Indian Air Force, to disclose information of the Prime Minister’s Special Flight Returns-II. The information was sought by an RTI applicant Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retired).

    CIC’s order dated 8th July, 2020 stated, “In view of the foregoing, Commission directs the CPIO to provide the certified copies available and relevant SFR II as sought in the RTI Application after serving 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.”

    Justice Chawla stated that as per the provisions of the RTI Act, the CPIO can only provide details regarding the number of people on board travelling with Prime Minister and nothing more than that. But this was also disputed by the CPIO.

    The RTI application filed by Mr. Batra in the year 2018, asked certified copies of Special Flight Returns Part – I and PART – II regarding to foreign travels by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertaken by Air Force Aircraft from April, 2013.

    The CPIO further submitted that official records of Special Flight Returns’ function and working pf the security apparatus of the Indian Prime Minister cannot be brought in the public domain for the basic reason of security and safety of the Prime Minister.

    The Indian AIR Force stated, “The information so sought includes details related to the entire entourage, name 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.”

    RTI applicant Mr. Batra highlighted that no such information has been provided by the petitioner even though the CIC ordered him to do so. He further submitted that he was not provided information till early September that the 1AF was intending to challenge the orders of the CIC. He contended that traditionally, all such information was there in the public domain and even  private people could travel with the Prime Minister which meant that all of the entourage could not be exempted from revelation under the RTI Act.