CIC- President Secretariat should upload details of official visits of dignitaries on website
The news of the CIC order was carried earlier by us. Link - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/cic-suggests-make-visit-details-high-dignitaries-p-2875 . Now we bring you the detailed order of the CIC.
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the President’s Secretariat and Ministry of External Affairs seeking information concerning the official visits of the President of India especially that of Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil. He had wanted to know the details of the visit both inside and outside the country including the composition of the delegation and the expenses incurred on each such visit including the expenditure on accommodation, local travel, DA and miscellaneous items in respect of the President's visit to some 24 countries during the period April 2008 to October 2011. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided some information and denied the rest stating that these were not available in a compiled form and would disproportionately divert their resources if this had to be compiled and collated.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant argued that the PIO had provided him with similar information in the past in response to his RTI application and that it was odd that he is not be able to give the information for the remaining period. The respondent submitted that the desired information was not available centrally in a compiled form and had to be collected from various sources before giving it to the appellant. They argued that this was a time consuming process and would have to be repeated if they were asked to give the same information for the remaining period.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the expenditure incurred on any visit by the President whether inside or outside the country is booked and maintained in various ministries and departments of the government and is not available with any single public authority in a readymade and compiled form. The CIC held that no PIO cannot collect data from multiple sources, compile it and then provide to the appellant. Regarding the composition of the delegation, the Commission observed that the information should be available in the President Secretariat and directed the PIO to provide the details of the delegation including the name of the individual members their designation and the name of the Ministry/ Department each one represented to the appellant. The CIC also directed the PIO to inform the appellant about the exact budget allocation in the last five years against the domestic and foreign travel and the expenditure incurred annually against the said budget allocations. The CIC directed the PIO, Controller of Accounts and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to provide the breakup of the miscellaneous expenditure incurred on these visits.
Holding that a lot of public interest has been noticed in the visit of high dignitaries as the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister of India, the CIC suggested that the authority responsible in the President Secretariat may decide to upload as much information as possible about the official visits, specially the details of the delegation accompanying the President, in the official website for the information of the general public.
The Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has issued directions to disclose the details of official tours of Ministers and other officials vide F. No. 1/ 8/2012-IR Dated: llth September, 2012. Link – http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/dopt/Official%20tours.pdf
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. Ministry of External Affairs and President’s Secretariat in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000898
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/894
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission