IAF moves HC after info panel asks it to disclose PM’s flight details

Challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) directive, the Indian Air Force told Delhi High Court that the information sought can potentially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) moved an application in the Delhi High Court on Wednesday challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to provide information regarding Special Flight Returns (SRF)-II, saying it relates to details of the Prime Minister’s security apparatus and cannot be provided.

The IAF plea has claimed that 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 petition, filed through central government senior panel counsel Rahul Sharma and advocate C K Bhatt, is in appeal against the CIC’s July 8 direction to IAF to provide certified copies of available and relevant Special Flight Returns-ll to RTI applicant Commodore (retd) Lokesh K Batra.

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Batra had sought certified copies of SRF-I and SRF-II with regard to each foreign visit of former PM Manmohan Singh as also Prime Minister Narendra Modi from April 2013 onwards.

IAF, in its plea, claims that the CIC has “failed to appreciate and consider that the information sought by the respondent (Batra) from the petitioner (Air Force) cannot be disclosed and the application of the respondent for seeking the same ought not to have been allowed as the information sought is extremely sensitive in nature…”

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The petition contends that the SRF copies sought relate to “official records of functioning and working of the security apparatus of the Prime Minister of India which cannot be brought in public domain for safety and security reasons”.

The IAF said the CIC has made a grave error in law as well as on facts as it ignored that the details of SPG have been explicitly exempted from the purview of the RTI Act. Hence, the impugned order is bad in law as well as on facts and deserves to be quashed, it added.

“The SPG has strict protocols concerning the security of the Prime Minister and even the details regarding the name and number of SPG personnel engaged in the personal security of the Prime Minister of India are not brought into the public domain as unfortunately there have been assassinations of two previous Prime Ministers,” the IAF plea added.

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on Friday.