Clauses relating to national security cited even after deal was cancelled, says activist
GN Bureau | April 28, 2016
Amidst uproar in parliament over corruption in the AgustaWestland chopper deal and BJP MP Subramanian Swamy’s attack on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, another twist in the tale has emerged. In 2014 when prominent RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal filed a query seeking information on the controversial deal, his plea was rejected citing national security.
Agrawal had filed the RTI petition on March 21, 2014 (when UPA was still in power) to the defence ministry seeking details of the sudden termination of the deal with the Italian firm AgustaWestland for supply of 12 helicopters to India. Irregularities came to light in February 2013 when the firm’s CEO Guiseppe Orsi was arrested on corruption charges in Italy. The then defence minister AK Antony ordered a probe the next day, and the deal was cancelled in January 2014.
The defence ministry and the Indian air force (IAF) provided some information to the RTI filed by Agrawal but withheld critical information citing several exemption clauses of the Act, including 8(1)(h), 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(d), relating to impeding process of investigation, security and strategic aspects, and commercial aspects.
Agrawal says the exemption clauses under various sub-sections of section 8(1) are not meant to provide “a hiding cover for scams, scandals and corruption”. Moreover, section 8(2) of the Act provides access to information in case public interest overweighs other concerns, which is the case here.
Agrawal had sought (1) complete information together with related file-notings/ documents/ correspondence/ agreement etc on (a) signing of the AgustaWestland deal. But the CPIO at the Air Headquarters vide response Air HQ/234011204/4/57641EIPS dated 14.02.2014 declined information on query (l-a) as exempted under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act allegedly because of security and strategic interest of the nation.
His query (3) was about the total cost of helicopters and terms of payment, including payment already made with dates of respective payments. The CPIO rejected the plea citing exemption under section 8(1)(d), which relates to commercial aspects.
For the full RTI response see the PDF here.
Probing data concerning increased job creation and the decline in unemployment has been holding the attention of economists and been subject of discussions in several think tanks in the preceding months. The NITI Aayog reports that 3.53 million new jobs were created between September 2017 and February 2018
With Lockdown 4 ending Sunday, the home ministry has issued new guidelines to fight COVID-19 and for phased re-opening of areas outside the Containment Zones. The guidelines, issued based on extensive consultations held with states and UTs, will be effective from June 1 till June 30. The first phase of reo
When the whole world is fighting COVID-19, food and nutrition security has become a major issue. The pandemic has aggravated the existing food crisis in India, especially in rural and tribal regions. There has been less availability of fresh foods in most parts of the country, and the tribal community has
India is determined to “set an example” for the rest of the word in the post-pandemic economic revival, prime minister Narendra Modi has said, underling the need to become self-reliant. “There is also a widespread debate on how the economies of various countries, including
Close to 48 lakh migrant labourers have been able to reach home from the cities they were working in, as the Indian Railways have run a total of 3,543 “Sharmik Special” trains from May 1. Following the home ministry order regarding the movement by special trains of migrant worker
Before the novel coronavirus hit it, Mumbai about 10-12 lakh labourers from elsewhere had made it their home. The figure for the state of Maharashtra was another 18-20 lakh. As the pandemic spread and the Maximum City emerged as the worst-hit place in India, all economic activities came to an end, and with