The CIC has directed the Air India to disclose complete records related to bills raised for the foreign visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, underlining that since the expenditure is from the public exchequer it cannot be withheld under the “cloak” of commercial confidence and fiduciary capacity.
The CIC’s order comes two years after RTI activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra filed an application, seeking information on bills raised during the PM’s international travels. Batra had sought to know dates, durations, places visited and the date-wise copies of bills raised by Air India to the PMO for 2016-17.
In an e-mail, sent to an Air India official on December 26, 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had said, “Records pertaining to PM’s flight have certain information which may have security implications and are, hence, exempted from disclosure under clause (g) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
In an order dated 8 May, the CIC rejected the submission made by Air India’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) that the details sought by Batra were exempt under the cloak of commercial confidence and fiduciary relationship with the client concerned, which in this case is another wing of the government.
In his second appeal, Batra had stressed that Air India is a public sector authority working under the control of government, which is performing its statutory function of loaning its aircrafts to other government bodies. Hence, this loaning of its chartered flights to various government departments/agencies cannot be stated to be a matter of commercial confidence.