The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed a Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to Indian Air Force (IAF) to provide an RTI activist information regarding each foreign visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertaken on IAF aircraft.
Justice Navin Chawla also sought a response from the RTI activist, Commodore (retired) Lokesh K. Batra, who had requested certified copies of Special Flight Returns Part-I and Part-II relating to foreign visits of Mr. Modi and Dr. Singh undertaken on IAF aircraft from April 1, 2013 onwards.
The IAF had moved the High Court challenging the July 8, 2020, order of the CIC, saying that the information sought was extremely sensitive in nature as it related to details of the Prime Ministers security apparatus.
The information so sought includes details related to the entire entourage, names of Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel accompanying the 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, the IAF said.
Advocate Rahul Sharma, representing the IAF, argued that Part-I info on details of flights had been provided to the RTI activist. However, Part-II had details of number of passengers and their names.
Once this info under severability clause is given, it would be detrimental. The security apparatus would be exposed, Mr. Sharma said.
Justice Chawla noted that the details sought were sought of not only passengers, including the SPG personnel, but also officials of the government accompanying the Prime Minister. Why should that be disclosed? At best, you [Mr. Batra] will get the numbers, he remarked.
The High Court gave four weeks time to Mr. Batra to respond to the IAFs plea.
In its plea, the IAF said 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 RTI Act, 2005.
Additionally, Part-II contains details of the passengers including names, designations and organisation details of passengers accompanying the Prime Minister, including the security personnel.
Such information can be strategically/tactically advantageous to our adversary and jeopardise VVIP/VIP security issues, the IAF said.

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