The Delhi High Court on Friday (December 11) a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing the Indian Air Force (IAF) to provide information regarding Special Flight Returns (SRF)-II, which contains details of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s entourage on his foreign trips.
Justice Navin Chawla said the information sought by the RTI applicant with regard to details of ministry or department officials who accompanied the PM on a trip cannot be disclosed, but there was no harm in providing details of the number of passengers on flights.
“There shall be a stay on the impugned order till further orders,” the court said.
“If you see SRF-II, it will only be the number of passengers that he (CPIO) will be able to disclose. He can’t even disclose to you how many officers or what rank… Let’s say even Ministry of External Affairs accompanied the Prime Minister or the President, how will he disclose that,” the court said, according to a report in The Indian Express.
The court also issued a notice to the RTI applicant Commodore (retd) Lokesh K Batra and sought his stand on the IAF’s appeal against the CIC’s July 8 direction.
Batra had sought certified copies of SRF-I and SRF-II with regard to each foreign visit of former PM Manmohan Singh as also PM Modi from April 2013 onwards.
In its petition in Delhi High Court, IAF had said, “…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 court listed the matter for further hearing on April 12, 2021, and stayed the operation of the CIC direction till then.
It observed that the CIC ought to have been more clear as to what information can be provided and what is exempted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
(With inputs from PTI)