The Delhi high court has responded to the Indian Air Force’s plea of not disclosing the details of Prime Minister’s security and flights by putting a stay on the order of revealing the information of the security personnel and flight details under the right to information act.
On December 9, the Indian Air Force had challenged the Central Information Commission’s order that had mandated the disclosure of the information related to the Special Flight Returns (SRF)-II of the foreign visits of the Prime Minister since 2013. They stated that it was a threat to the jurisdiction and principles of the country.
The Indian Air Force was asked to give the original and verified copies of the Special Flight Returns – Part 2 to the Central Public Information Officer of Air Headquarters by the CIC on July 8.
The high court had demanded commodore Batra reply to the notice issued by the Indian Air Force in the next four weeks and have also put a stay on the ‘impugned’ order till further notice.
The court said that in SRF-2, only the number of passengers will be revealed and not the designations or the ranks. Whoever accompanies the President or the Prime Minister will not be disclosed.
It was also found that the CIC had clearly stated about the nature of the information that was to be disclosed and Batra argued that in accordance to the private individuals and other people present in the entourage of the Prime Minister. The justice also added that only the number of associates has been asked by the authorities.
The reason for the revelation of designations of officers from other ministries or departments was observed by the court and decided that it should be limited to the numbers. Although Batra argued that this information has been disclosed for a long time.
Earlier in 2018, Batra had demanded the information of all the foreign visits of two prime ministers, Narendra Modi and Manmohan Singh from April 2013 due to the money spent on such trips and not for the public welfares for which the tax-payers pay.
However, he was told that the former Prime Minister had not flown in Indian Air Force planes till May 2014. He was denied access to the information of aircraft, the crew and the companions of the Prime Minister as it was ‘sensitive’ information and the security of the country would not be threatened.
In the petition of the Indian Air Force, they had mentioned the CIC has neglected the fact that the law has denied access to the information even the SPG details under the RTI act, 2005.
Keeping in mind the assassination attempts on the Prime Ministers, SPG has strong protocols regarding the protection and security of the Prime Minister including the personal information of the SPG officials are not to be disclosed in public. As it can find the source of the assistance to the PM given for security purposes which are only used for internal audits.
The details sought included the Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel and companions of the Prime Minister on his foreign tours. In case it was disclosed, it would significantly affect the interests of the country.