Friday 28 October 2016

CIC seeks PM foreign trip bills to decide if they’re secret

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has sought files related to foreign trips of the Prime Minister from the Ministry of External Affairs which had refused an RTI applicant access to the documents citing security concerns. Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra had sought these details to assess the expenditure incurred on foreign trips of Narendra Modi. Chief Information Commissioner
Radha Krishna Mathur directed the minister to peruse the files to ascertain whether there was any security concerns in the records. “The commission observed that without perusal of the file, it cannot be decided that whether the sought for information contains security related information,” he said, directing the ministry to produce one representative file before it.

Batra stated before the commission that the case involves substantive public interest as the bailout amount, reported to be in thousands of crores of rupees, being given to Air India was the money of taxpayers. He also said there was a need for reforms by understanding the causes of long delays in payments to Air India.
He said  he was seeking information on details of expenses incurred on foreign visits of Modi and former Prime Ministers; instructions and the proces/steps involved in charting such flights and filing ‘flight returns’ and raising bills and clearing bills.

The ministry told Batra that information he had sought was exempted from disclosure under section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. The matter falls under the category where the disclosure of information would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and security interests of the state, it claimed. 

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