The Central Information Commission (CIC) held that denial of records of empowered committees due to reasons of “national security” is “unjustified” and “far-fetched”.
NEW DELHI — The Central Information Commission (CIC), a statutory agency created under the Right to Information Act in 2005, has directed the Centre to reveal within 10 days information relating to an empowered group subcommittee — a panel of officials and experts — dealing with medical oxygen.
According to CIC, the Narendra Modi government’s refusal to share with citizens the official records detailing the preparations and response to Covid-19 on the ground that it would threaten national interests seems “far-fetched” and “not justified,” reports The Telegraph.
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Sourav Das, a New Delhi-based transparency activist and investigative journalist, he raised concerns that the Centre has been denying information on its Covid-19 preparation, policy, and material based on which decisions are taken to the public by citing reasons of “national interest”.
The appellant had earlier filed a Right to Information (RTI) application in the month of April and was met with a cursory reply on June 11 which lacked substantiation. In view of this, the appellant filed his PIL.
Das had, under the RTI Act, asked for the dates on which the oxygen subcommittee had met, the agendas of its meetings, copies of the presentations made during the meetings, the minutes of the meetings and information on oxygen stocks and rollout plans, according to media reports.
A number of Covid-19 patients across India, including over-40 patients in two hospitals in Delhi, had died after their hospitals, overwhelmed with patients, ran out of medical oxygen during the peak phase of India’s second Covid-19 wave in April-May.
The CIC, in its order released on Saturday after a July 22 hearing on the appeals filed by Das, said: “The information sought being denied in a blanket manner is not justified at all.”
It has ordered the central public information officer (CPIO) to provide “maximum information as disclosable in the letter and spirit of the RTI Act”.
(Based on media reports)