The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing the disclosure of information about the foreign visits undertaken by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and former PM Manmohan Singh (CPIO, IAF vs Commodore Lokesh K Batra).
A single-judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla issued notice in the challenge preferred by Central Public Information Officer, Directorate of Personal Services Air Headquarters, Indian Air Force (petitioner) and sought response from the RTI applicant, Commodore Lokesh K Batra.
Appearing through advocate Rahul Sharma, the petitioner argued that while information on the number of flights/visits had already been provided, the information sought by the applicant with respect to the entourage was extremely sensitive in nature.
Specifically opposing the disclosure of names and designation of persons and security personnel accompanying the Prime Minister, Sharma contended that the information had “nothing good” for the applicant.
“Severance of the information cannot be done. Bad elements can strategize their next move“, Sharma apprehended.
Sharma argued that information on Prime Minister’s Special Protection Group was exempted from disclosure under Section 8 of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), 2005.
In view of the CIC order, the court suggested the petitioner to disclose the number of persons who accompanied the Prime Minister and withhold details of persons occupying sensitive positions.
“The CIC sent the ball to your court to see what can be given”, the court remarked it observed that the CIC itself should have identified information that could or could not be shared under Section 8 of the Act.
Advocate Prasanna S opposed the petition on the ground that it was misconceived, and that the CIC order was passed on the petitioner’s undertaking.
In its order, CIC had directed the petitioner to provide certified copies of available and relevant flight record sought by the applicant after severing the names and other relevant identifying particulars of the security/SPG personnel.
The matter would be heard next in April 2021.