The Indian Air Force (IAF) moved the Delhi High Court on Wednesday challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to provide an RTI activist information regarding every foreign visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that was undertaken by lAF aircraft.
The IAF, in its plea, contended that the information sought to be disclosed by the CIC in its July 8, 2020 order was “extremely sensitive in nature” as it related to details of the Prime Minister’s security apparatus.
“The information so sought includes details related to the entire entourage, names of Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel accompanying the Prime Minister 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,” IAF said.
The IAF also argued that the information sought by RTI activist Commodore (retired) Lokesh K. Batra in his June 2018 RTI application was completely exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act.
Mr. Batra had sought certified copies of Special Flight Returns Part-I and Part-II relating to foreign visits by Prime Minister Modi and former Prime Minister Singh, undertaken by Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft, from April 1, 2013.
The IAF said the CIC made “grave error in law as well as on facts as it ignored that the details of the SPG is explicitly exempted from the purview of the RTI Act, 2005”.
It said the SPG was raised in 1985 with the intention to provide proximate security cover to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members. It was only after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards in 1984, the need for a specialised and dedicated force arose.
“Even the details regarding the name and number of SPG personnel engaged in the personal security of the Prime Minister are not brought into public domain as unfortunately there has been assassination of two previous Prime Ministers of India,” the IAF said.
Additionally, the SFR-II contains details of the passengers including name, designation, organisation details of passengers accompanying the Prime Minister, including the security personnel. “Such information can be ‘strategically/ tactically’ advantageous to our adversary and jeopardise VVIP/VIP security issues,” the IAF said.